“The Last Resort is still one of my favorite songs… That’s because I care more about the environment than about writing songs about drugs or love affairs or excesses of any kind. The gist of the song was that when we find something good, we destroy it by our presence — by the very fact that man is the only animal on earth that is capable of destroying his environment. The environment is the reason I got into politics: to try to do something about what I saw as the complete destruction of most of the resources that we have left. We have mortgaged our future for gain and greed.”
— Don Henley, Eagles
…an excerpt from Don Henley’s interview in 1978. Who wouldn’t agree with Henley? For me, I couldn’t agree more. We are now living in the 21st century — an era in which the world has gone crying for mankind’s destructive actions. In a world where humans are the only animals that destroy their own homes, how about a piece of the song to remind them/us of what they/we are doing to our Mother Earth?
“The Last Resort”: A song about the environment
A song was written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, “The Last Resort” tells about how man inevitably destroys the places he finds beautiful. Originally included on the Eagles’ album, Hotel California, it was released on December 8, 1976.
In an episode of In the Studio with Redbeard, Frey stated:
“I have to give all the credit for ‘The Last Resort’ to (Don) Henley. It was the first time that Don, on his own, took it upon himself to write an epic story. We were very much at that time, concerned about the environment and doing anti-nuclear benefit concerts. It seemed the perfect way to wrap up all of the different topics we had explored on the Hotel California album. Don found himself as a lyricist with that song, kind of outdid himself…We’re constantly screwing up paradise and that was the point of the song and that at some point there is going to be no more new frontiers. I mean we’re putting junk, er, garbage into space now. There’s enough crap floating around the planet that we can’t even use so it just seems to be our way. It’s unfortunate but that is sort of what happens.”
Henley recalled that he had been reading about “the raping and pillaging of the West by mining, timber, oil and cattle interests” at the time he wrote the song. He said that he wanted to expand the song’s scope even further. Hence, he “tried to go ‘Michener’ with it,” but was never totally satisfied with how it came out.
More of “The Last Resort” in Don Henley’s Mind
Don Henley wrote the lyrics about how people from the Eastern United States ruined the West early on. Whereas they killed the Native Americans, and the more West America goes, the more commercial it gets.
By the mid-’70s, Henley left Texas. And just as he was a star in the Eagles. As the band worked on its “Hotel California” album, Henley looked to both personal history and the national story for a musical essay on how the West was lost. It started off with a pretty girl hefting a suitcase in a city that shares its name with the divine.
To note, Henley was already turning his mind to environmental themes that would become a signature of his career as an activist-artist — the plunder of the West and the metaphors there for personal destruction.
“The music and the words to that song were my own. In a way, it was different from other tracks. It was my baby. And it was me standing apart from the Eagles and trying to shape a story.”
Furthermore, Henley told Rolling Stone in 1978,
“The gist of the song was that when we find something good, we destroy it by our presence. By the very fact, that man is the only animal on earth that is capable of destroying his environment.”
The song begins in Providence, Rhode Island. It goes all the way across America, wrapping up in the Hawaiian town of Lahaina. Along the way, it chronicles how Americans have exploited and destroyed their own land.
“We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds,” Henley sings. “In the name of destiny and the name of God.”