Okkervil River

Yesterday we learned than Don Henley of the Eagles is still really angry at both Frank Ocean and Will Sheff (aka Okkervil River) for what Henley sees as copyright violations of his music. In the case of Okkervil River, Henley prevented Sheff from releasing a cover of the song “The End Of The Innocence” for free on the internet. Sheff then released a long and in-depth response via Rolling Stone discussing his relationship with the song, his reaction to the situation, and the re-appropriative tradition that’s been the backbone of all folk music. Check out an excerpt of his statements and listen to the cover that Don Henley found so “unimpressive” below.

I was first introduced to “The End Of The Innocence” via Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown, which my Dad would play in our station wagon as he drove me and my brother to church every Sunday. I was a kid who was just figuring out my own taste in music; for the first time, I was realizing that I didn’t like every song on the radio anymore, that some spoke to me more than others. Shuffled in with sappy late-’80s cuts like “From A Distance” and “Cuts Both Ways,” “The End Of The Innocence” stood out. Sonically it was just as soggy as those Bette Midler and Gloria Estefan ballads, but there was this deflated masculine middle-aged world-weariness to it that haunted me, although I wouldn’t have thought of those exact words at the time. I was 12 or 13, but the song made me feel like I was 56. And the way the verse and chorus interacted with each other musically was gorgeous.

I had no idea I’d become a performer when I grew up, and the artists that influenced me to become one were nothing like Henley. I loved the angry rough edges of early Dylan, the meandering acid-laced folk of the Incredible String Band, the fearless, passionate performances of Nina Simone. All of these artists, on some level, drew from a folk tradition, and, as I got deeper into their work, they led me to old-time American folk and blues – to artists like Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Dock Boggs, Skip James and the Carter Family. As I fell deeper and deeper in love with these artists I started noticing something that they all had in common – they all copied each other. Woody Guthrie took the melody from the Carters’ “Little Darling Pal Of Mine” and he wrote “This Land Is Your Land.” Robert Johnson took the already-existing blues tales about selling your soul to the devil and they ended up incorporated into his whole image. Bob Dylan took the Scottish ballad “Come All Ye Bold Highway Men” and used it for “The Times They Are A–Changin’.” Nina Simone transformed the ridiculous Morris Albert MOR ballad “Feelings” and improvised re-written lyrics, stretching the song over the 10-minute mark and creating something harrowing from it.

Comments (19)
  1. If anyone has a complaint about this cover, it’s Bruce Motherfucking Hornsby, not Don Henley.

    • THANK YOU! Scott was quick to point out that the song was “co-written” by Henley and Bruce, but honestly has Don Henley ever written another song this good?

      Guessing that Mike Campbell did most of the heavy lifting for “Boys of Summer” too…

      • “has Don Henley ever written another song this good”…. most of the Eagles hits. Sure they are from 30 years ago but you can’t deny his talent.

  2. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • I recorded Okkervil River for a radio session last fall and Will was super super nice, far from what I’d call “jerky.”

      • I’ve see OR play 5 times. Perhaps at the last show I saw (this fall, as a matter of fact), as he totally blew off a fan (literally waved him away — and no, the fan was not me :)), he was having a bad night. But the kid who wanted his autograph or a “Hello” or whatever he was asking for at the bar was maybe all of 22. It just seemed a little heavy-handed to me.

        • Is 22 years old supposed to be young enough that we feel bad for them not getting a wave back? I mean if a 5 year old got ignored I’d feel a little bad, but 22 seems adult enough to handle that slight lack of semi-celebrity attention. Are people really saying “oh that poor little 22 year old” now? haha

          • I wasn’t aware there was an age range, but I just think if someone pays money to attend your show, and you are out and about in the crowd during said show–not backstage, not on the bus, not in the bathroom taking a piss–that it probably isn’t the absolute most taxing thing in the world for you to engage a polite fan for 2 minutes whether he is 22, 12, or 42. I know, crazy thoughts, fuck that fan, yeah?. Also, to me “jerk-y” isn’t exactly “asshole.” I thought it was rude. And as I said, it could have been an off night, who knows. Interestingly, there are people who like Don Henley, even still. Course, you wouldn’t know it by this thread as I imagine some people in this thread may not even know who Henley is if it weren’t for Will Sheff or Frank Ocean,

    • Can’t we just say that Don Henley is being a douche about all of this? I don’t see how Frank Ocean nor Will Sheff have done anything nearly as “jerky” as Don Henley.

    • yeah, since when is Will Sheff a jerk?

  3. I liked it.

    I bet Hornsby is all like, WHERE’S ‘THE RANGE’?!

  4. Hornsby just wrote the music–Henley provided the lyrics.

  5. Hey Stereogum — the video player you have at the top of the page is no good. I can’t seem to pause it or even turn the volume all the way off. Every time I load I new page, I have to listen to the same Lily Allen story about feeling “Sheezusy.” Sheezus, it’s annoying!

  6. Henley/Hornsby are the clear winners already here, if it’s a battle of which version will stand the test of time. This shoe-gazing, Xanex-jingle take on the song isn’t gonna set the world on fire any time soon.

    • I don’t think he’s exactly trying to create the definitive version here, just his own cover, ya know? (and just to be nit-picky, I think you meant “navel-gazing” as opposed to “shoe-gazing”, different kinds of gazing for different things.)

  7. I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of Don Henley or the Eagles, but this is actually pretty great (and goes a long way in redeeming the song to my ears). Thank you, Mr. Sheff.

  8. Unfortunately, this has caused the Barbara Streisand effect. If Don Henley didn’t want anyone to hear this admittedly pretty terrible cover of his song, he should have just ignored it and let it die the death it deserved.

  9. This guy sounds incredibly narcissistic and self-absorbed. Not that Don Henley isn’t himself, but sorry, dude it’s not all about you. Who really gives a flying fig about your listening to Casey Kasem in the backseat of your dad’s car, or your pronouncement that it’s sonically “soggy,” in your self-involved clched opinion? Write your own damn songs if you’re so convinced of your own superiority instead of ripping off someone else’s idea in the name of folkie appropriation. You’re not a folkie, just incredibly mediocre.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2