Don Henley Slams 'Arrogant' Frank Ocean for Using 'Hotel' Music
Don Henley is having a "Hey kids, get off my lawn!" moment. In a new interview, the Eagles frontman tweaks R&B singer Frank Ocean and indie band Okkervil River for using master tracks or covering two of his songs in recent years without permission.
Henley's issue with Ocean stems from the rising star's sampling of the entire "Hotel California" track, minus vocals, for his song "American Wedding." Ocean wrote new lyrics for the song, which was never released commercially but was included on a free mixtape. Henley was not impressed, and seemed shocked that Ocean "doesn't seem to understand" copyright laws in the United States.
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"Anyone who knows anything should know you cannot take a master track of a recording and write another song over the top of it," Henley told the Daily Telegraph in Australia. "You just can't do that. You can call it a tribute or whatever you want to call it, but it's against the law. That's a problem with some of the younger generation. They don't understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright."
Henley said when he caught wind of the track's existence, he got his lawyers involved, and that Ocean was "quite arrogant" about the situation. The classic rocker said Ocean wouldn't listen to reason, so he threatened legal action.
"He was clearly in the wrong," Henley said. "I wouldn't dream of doing something like that. What kind of ego is that? I don't understand it."
Previously, Ocean has jabbed that Henley was "intimidated by my rendition" of the song and said that he failed to understand what the fuss was about, given that no money was being made. "Isn't this guy rich as f---?" he wrote on Tumblr. "Why sue the new guy?"
As for Okkervil River, Henley took issue with their version of "The End of Innocence" not because they covered it, but because the Austin-based band changed some lyrics without asking him first.
"If you respect somebody you ask their permission to diddle around with their work," he said. "I don't know how [Okkervil River would] react if I took one of their songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it. Maybe they wouldn't care but I care."
Okkervil River's Will Sheff echoed Ocean in being incredulous to Henley's opposition.
"It's a real dick move, man," he told The Music magazine in February. "I don't really get what [Don's] issue with it was; it's not like I was making money: I figure that's all he f------ cares about anyway … He's an old-fashioned guy who doesn't understand."
Sheff penned a long op-ed piece for Rolling Stone in which he revealed he took the song off his free album release of covers, Golden Opportunity.
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Sheff explained he was first introduced to the song listening to Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown show in his dad's station wagon. "There was this deflated masculine middle-aged world-weariness to it that haunted me," he said.
About changing the lyrics -- written by Henley with Bruce Hornsby -- Shef admitted: "I wasn't the first person to do that, because doing it goes back to Afrika Bambaataa, to Marcel Duchamp, to Bob Dylan, and to pretty much all folk music pre-1940. so even in that, I guess, in that idea, I was unoriginal."
In the future, Henley suggests younger artists be more like Michael Buble, who did a "totally legal cover" of the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight" in 2009.
"You can record anyone's song you like -- it's called [buying] a compulsory license," he said. "You don't just go and do it."
A version of this story originally appeared on Billboard.com.