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The End Of The Innocence by Don Henley

Album: The End Of The InnocenceReleased: 1989Charted:
8
48
  • The "Tired old man that we elected king" is a reference to US president Ronald Reagan. There are a lot of political overtones in the song, as Henley strongly opposed Reagan's agenda.
  • The line about "Beating ploughshares into swords" is a distortion of Isaiah 2:4 in which Isaiah describes the end times: "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

    The inversion of the words most likely hints at the decline of the number of family farms and the increase in US military power in the '80s as a signal of the end times of innocence. (thanks, Kent - Pittsfield, IL)
  • Bruce Hornsby played piano on this and wrote this with Henley. Hornsby had a US #1 hit with "The Way It Is." (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
  • This was Henley's third solo album. He didn't release another for 11 years.
  • When the Eagles broke up in 1982, Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey also launched solo careers. They all did fairly well, but Henley was the most successful. The Eagles re-formed in 1994 for their Hell Freezes Over tour.
  • Bob Dylan often performed this on his 2002 US tour.
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Comments: 61

The song means whatever feelings it invokes within you. However, Henley is probably to the Left of Michael Moore, for Henley the song was about Reagan(omics).

When THE REST of the World found out (what I suspected since "Wake Me Up,..") about George Michael, I still loved his music, his voice,.. and I didn't feel more Gay because of it:)

Dennis Miller is Conservative but when I see reruns of him on SNL; it doesn't make him any less or any more funny to me, same with Victoria Jackson. I still enjoy their talent(s).

Sly Stallone is Conservative, I still love love Rocky III (OK it's because of Mr. T mostly but still) and his Rambo movies.

I didn't stop liking Clint's movies because I don't agree with him Politically. I don't think Penn is Less of an A-ohle because I like him as an actor and share some of his views.
Markantney - Biloxi, Ms
@Martin, Fresno, CA

It should since the same man played the piano on both songs.
Reyos - Windsor, On
This song is about the saving of an area of Concord Ma. referred to as Walden Woods. Famous writer Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many books etc. in this area. Several years ago the land (which includes acres of land and Walden Pond) was supposed to be sold and condos built. For some reason this attracted the attention of many famous people who became political activists to save this land (which they did save). That is why there are so many political references and mentions of a "place where we can go still untouched by time..."Sue - Millis, Ma
The piano playing reminds me of Hornsby's song "That's just the way it is."Martin - Fresno, Ca
How is this anatomically possible? How can her "hair fall all around" HIM when her head is "on the ground"?Tim - Hartford, Ct
Weightier issues aside, tell me how the anatomy of the song works! Tell me how the girl's hair can "fall all around" the boy when she's laying the back of her head on the ground? In my limited sense of the physics of things, her hair spills on the ground, not the boy.Tim - Hartford, Ct
To me, this song is largely about how the Far Right is making the world more dangerous and trashing nature. Note the reference to a place "still untouched by men." Henley was/is a big environmentalist, which is at odds with Republican ideology of deregulating pollution and fighting for the "patriotic" right to pillage natural resources, especially oil. If any Republican candidates use this song at rallies, they are hypocrites. The innocence lost has nothing to do with their vision of returning to an 1800s Manifest Destiny ideal.Jim - Pleasant Hill, Ca
I always thought this song was about growing up and being in the real world, thus, ending the innocence of childhood. This kid's parents are getting divorced, and I think that's what ended the innocence of childhood. I remember hearing this song as a kid and being very much intrigued...I remember winter nights where the sun would set early on my bus rides home from school, flakes of snow falling from the sky, and the cold, crisp, Wisconsin winters. As a little kid, I remember thinking "this is the end of a day. This could be the end of my innocence." I would continuously hear this song and now as an adult after reading the lyrics, I really do think it's about a family going through divorce, and the kids in the family losing a piece of their childhood. In many ways, when I would see the sun set on that bus, it was kind of symbolic. It was the end of the day. And closer and closer to the end of my innocence...Terry - Grafon, Wi
What Kent from Pittsfield, IL forgot to mention is that "Beating ploughshares into swords" isn't just an inversion of Isaiah's words, but it is also a direct quote from another Biblical prophet - "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, "I am strong!" Joel 3:10. Not sure what Henley was trying to say, but let's be fair and say that he could have been quoting Joel, not necessarily twisting Isaiah.Pdiddy - Westland, Mi
Bernie Leadon original eagles guitarist dated Patti Reagan.Dan - Winthrop, Ma
What Donald the Eagle is writing about here friends is the death of the American Dream and the Beginning of the American Nightmare. In his beautiful Americana Rock Fables both with the Eagles and his brilliant solo work, Henley has emerged as a trenchant writer of dreams deferred. In songs like Desperado, After the Thrill Is Gone, Hotel California, A Month of Sundays and Working It, Henley is asking many burning questions. Out of all of these classic rock songs, The End of the Innocence is the best song associated with the Eagles. Don Henley is a brilliant writer. May he always be a beautiful Eagle. After all, the Bald Eagle is America's national birdLeo - Westminster 1, Md
You have to realize something, you are all right, I am 100% positive! When a song writer writes a song, they get a melody with a nice hook and a vowell or consanant which makes it. The song may start as a love song, which is typical. As songs build, they change. Finished songs can have meanings that were not originally part of a grand plan. It is obvious that ths song lent itself to being delivered as a political statement. But it is also obvious that it orignated as song about growing up. Things are different in the real world when you are an adult. Somebody capitalized on another persons perception of the song; so when they did the video, it shows both interpretations, war, and love making in the grass. does this seem right? watch the video and you will see where I'm coming from. I am a writer also, and that is, the way it is.The Man - A City, Bolivia
This song is OBVIOUSLY about DIVORCE. But people may think what they please, because that is the beauty of music and lyrics.Audra - Columbus, Fl
"Sounds more like a dirty old man taking advantage of a young teen whose parents are separating"

That's excatly what I always thought it to be about. Especially with knowing about Henley and young girls. Never thought it had a single thing to do with Reagan or family farms. It's like with the people who see the image of Jesus on the side of a propane tank.
Mrbig - Yeehaw Junction, Afghanistan
Don Henley stated in an interview that "this tired old man" WAS Reagan. He didn't agree with Reagan's policies or the direction the country went during Reagan's 8 years as President. Lest we forget, this is the man who wanted to count ketchup as a vegetable in our kid's school lunches. You can certainly read other meanings into the lyrics, but it is ultimately a political statement, as are several other songs Don has written, i.e. If Dirt Were Dollars, Little Tin God, Gimme What You Got, A Month of Sundays... This song addressed how our innocence as a country had been lost due to wars, political wrangling and greed. And it's not getting any better, which is why the song is still pertinent 20 years later.Georgi - Westland, Mi
No question: d-i-v-o-r-c-e
AND the lyrics are being told by the couple's son. There's probably the danger that his future relationships may also fail. I concluded this because it seems that the majority of the words would fit this sceanrio.
David - San Diego, Ca
This song is about the america growing up and the government turning on "WE THE PEOPLE". First I am from the generation that grew up in the 70's. I remember when the day seemed longer, the pace of life then was slower. Anyway,"happily ever after fails & poisoned by these fairy tales" is refering to the american dream which is becoming harder and harder to achive. Largely because laws are being written more for the wealthy then the middle class. "arm chair warriors" refers to the U.S. congress & senate who write these law that fail the "people"."Oh beautiful" of course, is America."Beating plowshares into swords" is refering to instead of the peaceful nation that we once were. We now invade other countrys in the so call "Name of Freedom". Soon in the name of "New World Order"."Elected king" is all the Presidents that have had to enforce foreign policy through war."Daddy had to lie" every President since JFK lied to the people in some way, but how many were convicted? "Offer up your best defense" could easily be your best "protest". More and more the people have lost their voice and trust their lives to government. This is a very dangerous thing. The last verse is about America coming so far so fast. In 200 years from pilgrims to the most powerful nation in history. Who knows how long this will last. Where do we go from here? Now America is all grown up. However the way things are going, big government and big business is squeezeing everything out of the middle class.The time is coming when government will take your "rights, liberty & freedom" in the name of homeland security.Your "money" in Tax to pay the Trillions in national debt to the Fed.Reserve. Maybe even your life in the name of health care reform. This is,"The End Of The Innocence" One day we will take a long look back and remember that "once upon a time" government was "OF THE PEOPLE,BY THE PEOPLE,FOR THE PEOPLE" and "WE THE PEOPLE" stood behind and trusted the government. That is what made AMERICA great.
P.S. check out "The Last Resort" by The Eagles.
Aloha, Wafungee.
Cywafungee - Honolulu, Hi
Watch the original music video. It's not the least bit vague about the references. When Henley sings the line, "tired old man," we see old posters of Ronald Reagan on the side of a building. Shortly after he sings the line about "armchair warriors," we see Oliver North on a small TV set.Kirby - Waterford, Mi
Watch the music video. It's not the least bit vague about the references. When Henley is singing the "tired old man" line, we're shown old Ronald Reagan political posters on the side of a building. Right after the "armchair warriors" line, we see Oliver North on a small TV set.Kirby - Waterford, Mi
The music video isn't all that vague about the references. When Henley is singing the "tired old man" line, we see old Ronald Reagan posters on a wall. And right after the "armchair warriors" line, we see Oliver North on a TV set.Kirby - Waterford, Mi
I think ya'll are stretching it a little with these assumptions. There are some political overtones but it's about a divorce first and foremost and he decline of the family structure.

" Lawyers dwell on small details since daddy had to fly " ( divorce attorney, and yes...fu** attorneys )

" Didn't have a care in the world with mommy and daddy standing by "

" We've been poisened by these fairytales "

" find a place untouched by man "

Divorce and being forced to grow up/losing your innocence, ergo the song title.
Ryan - Littleton, Co
I think most of you have this song all wrong. This is about the Vietnam War. One look at Lyndon Johnson and the first thing you think of is a tired old man and he certainly was an armchair warrior. The part about the lie that daddy (Nixon) told and the part about lawyers cleaning up details is certainly a reference to the illegal excursions into Cambodia that Nixon authorized. "I know a place that we can go" refers to the draft dodgers hiding out in Canada. And "Now we've come so far so fast" refes to the protest movement against the war. The end of innocence applies much more closely with those of us who were drafted into the military than it does with Reagan's all-volunteer military. How can you claim a loss of innocence by joining a military that you volunteered for? But I think the real end of the innocence was the loss of faith in the government when we found out that LBJ lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get us into the war and that Congress was doing all it could to prevent the war from coming to a successful conclusion. There was a complete end of trust in government after that, which certainly continues to this day.Tim - Hickory, Nc
A couple postings talk about how Bruce Hornsby changed the lyrics to " who is NO LONGER king" rather than "who WE ELECTED king" and of course the liberals think it's cute but Henley's version makes sense even today: ELECTED is past tense. We did actually elect him in 1980 so why change the lyrics? Hornsby is pleased that he is no longer president? Reagan was responsible for so much good in this country mainly fixing the economy that Carter screwed up. So all the liberals that cheered are idiots. Another thing, someone said that Henley is "making fun" of Reagan by calling him "old" and "tired" but that's not true he is opposing the Reagan ERA. And Reagan HAD become old, sick, and tired, everyone knows that. It was sad that this man who stopped the cold war and was a brilliant speaker had become forgetful and exhausted. It seems that particular lyric is meant to be sad.
~~I wonder if Eddie Vasques knows Ronald Reagan. I doubt it.
~~Timothy - even liberals admit that Carter screwed this country and Reagan did good for the economy. You're a dumb little boy.
Erin - Virginia Beach,
Does anyone else feel like Don Henley criticizing lawyers in this song (lawyers dwell on small details, etc) is a little bit inappropriate? Let's not forget that this is the same Don Henley who was arrested for being caught with a sixteen year old prostitute, cocaine, cannabis, and perscription drugs not perscribed to him in Las Vegas. Were it not for his ultra-pricey Hollywood lawyers, he would be rotting away in the joint just like you or me. Sure, let him complain about ineqaulity, but let's not forget that the inequality in our system which puts entertainers above the law is the only thing that prevented him from numerous gang rapes in prison.G - Potomac, Md
This song to me, is about how the idealistic American youth of the Post-War wasn't really all that ideal; young men were preparing for war (Vietnam) after a supposedly fear-free childhood. First loves and sexual encounters are part of the imagery, which does include controversial current events in the 1980s to show that our idealism has problems, but that small-town Rockwell towns can still recall a more innocent time. I've always viewed it more as a "Splendor in the Grass," song, that the ideals of youth pass away, and we find strength in our memories. The video of the last verse shows some constancy--the mother and son (perhaps a widow, from the war) watching a movie, a beautiful girl waiting to enter the box office, in clothing of a prior era, and the box office lit up like an older one. . .Chi Che - Hong Kong, China
Timothy is right regarding what this song is about. It has nothing to do with divorce or sex, but is a political protest song. It is pretty well established that this song was written about the savings and loans crises in the 1980s in which many people lost their farms.

That said - music, like any art form, is up for individual interpretation.
Julia - Sydney, Australia
I think if one watches the video and listens to the song carefully that there is a very very strong case to be made that this song is about 'war', Reagan and the American military-industrial complex and is political.

I think the song is a tale from the eyes of someone who is about to go off to war and in Henley's eyes one which isn't justified.

The opening verse, which some above have interpreted as being about loss of childhood innocence due to divorce is more to my mind about remembering back to a simpler time as a child when you didn't have a 'care in the world' but now finishing boot camp and being prepared for war (imagery: guy getting head his shaved in the video, stating at attention with his rifle, etc.) he does, he worries about what's about to happen.

The plowshares into swords is a reference to declining small town farms and their people being turned into soldiers for lack of better economic opportunity. They're sent off to war by the 'man we elected king' but 'armchair warriors often fail' (i.e. those who conduct war from an ideological POV and who haven't experienced it first hand are armchair warriors sending others to do the work: i.e. Reagan, congress, etc.) because 'they've been poisoned by these fairytales', that being American military pre-eminence and the righteousness of the cause, justifying any means (hence the imagery of Oliver North in the video, which I believe also is alluded in 'lawyers clean up all details' and 'daddy had to lie').

Henley is lamenting the loss of American innocence, that of small town Americana, nuclear families and a time when the American dream was something more than mere consumption. The 'I need to remember this, so baby give me just on kiss, and let me take on long last look, before we say goodbye' is both literal from the eyes of a young soldier leaving his girlfriend to head off to war (give me one last kiss the remember home ) and at the same time an allusion to remembering a more innocent past, which is fading into memory ('let me take one long last look,before we say goodbye')
Jeff - Toronto, Canada
I was very interest to learn that Don Henley dated Reagans daughter. That puts a whole new slant on it! I have always absolutely loved this song which can no doubt be interpreted on several different levels but for me it always seems inextricably linked to Oliver North and the Iran Contra affair. There are all those references to 'lawyers dwell on small details','lawyers clean up all details', 'since daddy had to lie' [which could be Reagan or North 'offer up your best defence' 'beating ploughshares into swords' I take to be a reference to arms sales to Iran. This was a major major political scandal around the time the song was being written (Iran Contra 1987, album released 1989) Does anyone else go with this?
Nigel Sedgwick, Wirral UK
Nigel - Wirral, England
The "tired old man that we elected king", Ronald Reagan, liberated millions of people and inspired democracy around the world. Liberals hate him because liberals hate America and American values. The French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy praised America and professed gratitude for America more than American liberals ever do. Liberals want to stay in power for their own power hungry greedy reasons. Liberals, modern day Robin Hoods, want to redistribute wealth. If Reagan or any other Republican stands in their ignorant, shallow, naive socialist and communist philosophy, the Republican will be torn down, even if the Republican save the world.Dave - Louisville, Ky
This song is mainly about loosing your virginity. It talks about his parents. But, the bridge and Chorus are about sex. The song is about changing from a boy to a man.
The first verse is talking about him as a boy and his parents were "Standing By". But, the "Fairy tales" that are mentioned are talking about realizing that the world is a lot different than what we are taught when kids.

Then, The chourus says "But, I know a place that we can go. Still untouched by man. Sit and watch the clouds roll by. You can lay your head back on the ground. Let your hair fall all around. Offer up your best defense. This is the end of Innocence". In the first line he is telling his girlfriend where they can go to get away from the troubles at home. (And away from adults so they can intercourse) at the end of the chourus is when they have sex.

In the second verse he is an adult and has responsibilities.

I hope some of this makes sense because I am really high right now. And, I am tired of typing. But, all in all. This song is really awesome. Because it makes me remember my first time.
Michael - Lorain, Oh
I think this song is about the end of a relationship. Not by choice, but by events. Events that are uncontrollable. For those of you who have ever been to a small town with clouds rolling by and been with a loved one who you knew would never work out, but loved with all you have,you'll understand. Events in daily life, work, the world, etc. all shape who we are and what we do. It's sad, but we end affairs because of all the outside entities and never let our hearts direct us. Even though it may be a rough road.Dennis - St.louis, Nv
When Hornsby sings the song his way, he sings, "For this tired old man that is no longer king," which means Reagan had left office. When I sing this song to myself, I keep the "elected king" part, but then whisper, "He's no longer king now."Carly - Madison, Wi
The "tired old man elected king" was supposed to be Castro of CubaMadzie - Manila, Other
Simply put, anyone who tries to pin a label on any way of thinking or state of being (i.e liberal, conservatives, black, white) is very foolish, just as anyone who tries to force their own personal interpretation of this song on another is. The beauty of art is its ability to represent the times and become a part of history. The beauty of human race is its ability to learn from history and seek the truth based on past observations and knowledge. However, everyone's path to the truth is different and as long as it is educated, tolerant, and benefical to others it is justified. Therefore it is, again, foolish to post or deliver comments in any setting that denounce others view on artwork. Let the unbounded spectrum of your mind be your playing field and do not conform to the trappings of declining world. These words should not be taken lightly if any return to innocence is desired.Will - Boston, Ma
Even coming from one of those "right-wingers" that are categorized as things I am not and never have been, I find tremendous value in this song. No matter if the intention of the song was truly specific in nature, the writers used much sense to keep it open for discussion, to allow us all to find our own meaning and enjoyment within it. I don't care about their specifics- no matter WHO we are we can all agree that the world is a little less innocent than we would like it to be. And this song brings me to tears sometimes thinking about the loss of my innocence and the loss of my childrens' innocence to the corruption we hear of every day on the news by different kinds of people. We can all relate to this song, even if our secret underlying reason differs from the next person's, or even the writers'. This song takes me to a different place and I love that place. I can imagine that was the writers' true intentions.Tami - Warren, Oh
None of the previous comments have picked up on the line "offer up your best defense". Is it hinting that the loss of innocence may not be wholly consensual, making the story quite bitter?Stu - Fife, Scotland
I always thought he was saying "tired old man with the electic cane", meaning a wheelchair. Haha, I was wrong again!

Steve, Canada
Steve St. Michael - Renfrew, Canada
The song literally tells the story of a man thinking about his wife and leaving her. He thinks about just sitting throughout the day with his wife without a care in the world. However, "fairy tales" fail and love ends, resulting in the narrator leaving his wife ("Since daddy had to fly" ). The story continues with the narrator singing about how things had changed and what was once a loving relationship has been beaten "into swords" with them fighting with each other. He concludes that although they have come a long way, it is best for him to leave. He asks for "one kiss and a long last look before we say goodbye."

The song is also a metaphor for the plight of the farmer during Ronald Reagan's presidency. Although it is hidden in most of the song behind the literal breakup meaning, it is the visible theme of the second verse. Henley sings "We're beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king." Funds to farmers were cut under Reagan while military spending increased. Henley also makes fun of Reagan's age and appearance by calling him "tired and old." The metaphor can be carried throughout the entire song.

After George H. W. Bush became president, Bruce Hornsby began singing his version with the line "for the tired old man that is no longer king" to point out that Reagan was out of office.
Montague - Virginia Beach, Va
How about this? Dad gets sick with ALS. Stepfamily moves in for the estate. Biological children have to protect their father from being cleaned out; no easy task. Biological children were promised everything through previous divorce decree. Didn't happen. Definitely the end of the innocence. What else can this song mean? Daddy (a pilot) had to fly - and lie. Down on the ground with his hair all around. Thanks, Don.Rose - Jackson, Ne
I've read all your comments, and although I stand more knowledgable and further enlightened, I don't care what the song's about. I fell in love with the song during the summer of 2003, right in the midst of a steamy love affair with a now ex-girlfriend of mine.
This was our song.
I had just graduated college, and was headed to Connecticut; she was still in college, but would soon leave for Spain to study. We fell in love with the song and each other at exactly the same time. Within weeks, we were hundreds, then thousands of miles apart, and it was over.
It's still one of my favorites, but like most sentimental classics, it jerks around my insides, especially the last verse: "Who knows how long this will last, now we've come so far so fast." We knew the inevitable distance was just around the corner, enjoying every last minute we spent together.
Someday, it will all be in my book.
- Ryan, Bristol, CT
Ryan - Bristol, Ct
I suppose all songs and their lyrics mean something a little different to each person. For me though, this song touches a personal note like few have. In the mid-eighties, my whole family (including Dad) had to fly (or rather drive in a u-haul stuffed with our furniture) from our small town in Illinois when everything around us fell...yes, a sign of the times. It was truly the end of the innocence for me, and still to this day I can't look at a cornfield without bittersweet memories of a time when I really did feel like I lived in a safe fairy tale...with Mommy and Daddy standing by. I live thousands of miles from Illinois now, and even further away from my parents...who never divorced like so many people feel this song alludes to. Dad did though have to deal with lawyers, small details, and lies. The first time I heard this song I felt Don H had written it for me. I wish I could thank him personally for writing songs that really express the situation and feelings that so many of us share.Cyndi - Kona, Hi
I think this is actually about Don Henley's relationship with Ronald Reagan's daughter, Patti, who he dated.Mike - Colonie, Ny
Even though this is from the '80s and about that era, the song always reminds me of the first time my husband deployed, right after 9/11. Exactly four years later, he is now on his fourth deployment to the Middle East, and I wonder when it will all end. The lyrics resonate profoundly even now....Harper - Tucson, Az
People don't need to put one specific meaning on one song. Why does it just have to be about politics or just about divorce. A song like this one that is very poetic should have a different special meaning to each person. For me it is just what the song says the loss of innocence in our society that everyone soon seems to find when they become older, and how the fairy tales that we once heard and dreamed of aren't what reality is. But somehow some way we must find a place to escape in live that fairy tale, even if it is just a moment. Because if we can't live that fairy tale for just a moment we will be lost in a world that is filled of horrible things.Danny - Lexington, Va
Proof that it has nothing to do about divorce comes from Henley's own words. I'm not posting it because I don't remember where I found it. Just google "the end of the innocence" and "tired old man that we elected king." Henley wrote this song as a continuation in a sense of the message put out in "The Last Resort" when he was with The Eagles. That was obviously on the destruction the white man caused moving west during the last couple of centuries. Yes, it looks like a song about divorce and in a sense it is also a song about divorce, but it is more than that. The Lottery was a story about a tradition but (although Shirley Jackson said it was an accident) it was really a story about the dangers of conformity and following of tradition. Nothing is as simple as it looks except for modern music, regardless of the genre.Bsd987 - Long Island, Ny
This song is about politics and a little more. It is at least in part about the loss of the American dream and the death of the noble ideals of America. We've lost them to the corporate ideology, the Enron's and Exxon's of the world. More to the point, I think Henley is pointing out that the small town America "fairy tales" we lived have led us to this end.

P.S. Armchair warriors often fail--talk about premonition!
Kevin - Eugene, Or
I think this song is about both a divorce and a political standpoint. "But happily ever after fails/we've been poisoned by these fairy tales/lawyers dwell on small details/since Daddy had to fly" seems to pretty much spell out a divorce to me, because the very definition of "happily ever after" is a couple staying together, so when it fails, that means divorce. The second verse makes more sense to be the political side of things, just as the first makes more sense to be a divorce. But I think you all have missed the last verse, which is where I think the meaning of The End Of The Innocence is found. "Who knows how long this will last/Now we've come so far, so fast/But somewhere back there in the dust/That same small town in each of us/I need to remember this/So baby give me just one kiss/And let me take a long last look/Before we say goodbye." Also, from the chorus "I know a place where we can go/That's still untouched by men." I think he's talking about a state of mind, or just some kind of secret solitude that he has shut off from the rest of the world so that he can escape both his parents' divorce and the oppression of farmers (which means he could also live on a farm, otherwise I can't really imagine a kid keeping up with politics.) But to say that he's going to say goodbye to this solitude... that is the end of the innocence.Amanda - Gr Pr, Tx
when bruce hornsby - who not only played the piano but also co-wrote the song - plays this song live (as you'll note on his "greatest radio hits" album), he sings about "a tired old man [that's] NO LONGER king," as opposed to henley's version, which says "tired old man *elected* king." as if the reagan reference wasn't obvious enough, you should hear the (admittedly liberal) audience cheer and bruce smile when he sings that part!John - Washington, Dc
John from IN, the first comment post, has it exactly right. Interesting how the next post deals in the typical liberal ad hominem attack rather than a refutation of his analysis. As far as Timothy from Laguna Hills blaming Reagan's military buildup for bankrupting farms, puhleeze. I thought the military buildup also created homelessness, defunding of public schools, crumbling of innercity infrastructure, etc. In other words how many times are we going to spend the same money? And also my Laguna Hills buddy, the fact that Henley, the Eagles or any entertainer is Liberal does not ruin the enjoyment i get from their music. Too bad you can't enjoy Toby Keith and Ted Nugent. dbDave - Hockessin, De
I love how liberals make up their own version of the truth. Timothy, as a farmer by entire life I can tell you that Ronald Reagan was not responsible for what happened to the farm economy in the early eighties. Rather, it was the work of one of your role models, "peanut head" jimmy carter. When "peanut head" refused to sell grain to the Soviets, grain prices plummeted, leaving US farmers with no one to buy their crops. Also, "peanut head's" failed economic policies led to rising inflation, which in turn lead to sky high interest rates. Suddenly, farmers who had bought land on credit could no longer meet their debt service, and had to sell. This put more land on the market than was demanded, and land prices sunk, leaving farmers with no equity.
In the end, it sounds like Don Henley is just a bitter liberal, and I'm glad he hasn't had a hit for about 20 years now!
John - Bloomington, In
Hey Timothy, I think this song expresses Don Henley's disgust that someone like you cannot spell to save his life. That is, Henley is lamenting the fact that there used to be a time when somebody of your limited intelligence would be beaten by his third grade teacher for an utter lack of promise or potential (the 'Innocence') and that in today's world, no such physical admonition is possible.

My favorite part of your miserable rant is how you blast some groups of people for not thinking for themselves by recounting nearly word-for-word the same tired garbage that's been promulgated by socialist hippies for the past forty years.

Viva la Revolution, Tim. Over 62 million strong (as of 11.2.04) and growing.
Constantin - Tampa, Fl
You could not be more on the money Tim. This song makes a huge political statement. For you folks who think this song is about divorce of loosing your virginity. You obviously didn't know Ronald Reagan. This is also one of the best music vidos ever made. If you have not seen it. Checki it out.
Ed Vasquez, Los Angeles,CA greatangler2003@yahoo.com
Eddie - Los Angeles, Ca
In all due respect to Rachel "Happily Ever After Fails" still isn't about divorce. It is purely political as he sings about the illusion that as Americans we have been sold (think of your favorite Thomas Kinkade painting) of how qauint and beautiful America's small towns are when in reality because of Republicans and their support of corperations and non-support of farmers and small town blue collar workers "Happily Ever After" is going to fail because we have been poisoned by these fairy tales. I just saw Don Henley here in Orange County, California and he was nearly booed off the stage by the crowd because he bashed Bush and Republicans. Trust me on this; this songs meaning is a very very strong political statement. Now as far as any conservative idiot who calls himself a fan of Henley or the Eagles and then goes to a concert and boos because he makes a political statement - all of you are idiots because the bulk of Henley and many Eagles tunes are political statements against the Right Wing. Sorry you beer guzzeling, pot smoking, now born again right wingers lump the memories of the Eagles and Henley with losing your virginity (End of the Innocence) or memories of baseball (Boys of Summer but you guys obviously are way too shallow to realize the gravity of lyrics; but what should I expect since all of you get your news from Rush Limbaugh anyways instead of reading it for yourself.Timothy Liao - Laguna Hills, Ca
i think this only has a little to do with politics. obviously the "tired old man elected king" is ronald reagan, that we all agree on, but the rest of it is about a kid who's growing up and learning about the world, and reality, and that "happily ever after" doesn't always turn out that way. lying in the field, however, makes him remember the childhood innocence that's suddenly gone. "Since daddy had to fly" seems like an obvious reference to a divorce, not explained by timothy's theory...the american dream is referenced by the allusions to America the Beautiful.....but that's all just my opinion.Rachel - Upper Darby, Pa
Sorry you guys have this song all wrong. This song is not about the loss of individual innocence but a collective American innocence when in the 1980s many farmers had their farms taken away. I know it sounds like a love song but it is completely a political song about how Ronald Reagen and the Conservatives shafted the hard working blue collar people. The lawyers who dwell on small details have nothing to do with divorce but instead it is about the lawyers that have come to take the farms away. Listen to the second part "Oh beautiful for spacious skys, but now those skys are threatning. Beating plowshares into swords." Ronald Reagen took the hard work of the farmers that built our country and took the money to build a huge milatary. This song has nothing to do with love or the loss of love. Now I understand how you all can be misunderstood because it talks about it like someone losing their virginaty but it really has to do with something deeperTimothy Liao - Laguna Hills, Ca
I have heard two live versions performed by Bruce Hornsby (on his 2000 live CD "Here Come the Noise Makers" and the 2003 best-of CD "Greatest Radio Hits"). Both versions were given a jazz edge, but Hornsby's piano and vocals are stirring. Then again, Don Henley's version still remains the definitive of this song. The song, no matter who performs it, still has a lyrical emotion that not many songs possess. It is a moving song, and one that people can easily identify with.Justin - Felts Mills, Ny
This song is indeed about a broken marriage and the subsequent loss of childhood innocence (as the name of the song so aptly suggests)as an indirect result. Henley is attempting to tell a first-person account of a young child watching his parents go through divorce due to the father's infidelity and/or simple refusal to stick around any longer. Sadly, the child sits helplessly by as the whimsical nuclear family illusion further unravels due to the involvement of lawyers and the like ("Lawyers dwell on small detals/ Since daddy had to fly"). He ultimately winds up adopting a somewhat nihilistic look at the American dream believing that he has "been poisoned by these fairy tales" of happy familes, care-free days, and fairytale endings. There you goWes Childers - Midland, Tx
Sounds more like a dirty old man taking advantage of a young teen whose parents are separatingDeana - Indianapolis, In
Is this song about a divorce?Pat - Stony Brook, Ny
The "tired old man elected king" was supposed to be Ronald Reagan.Charles - Charlotte, Nc
Contains the line "With mommy and daddy standing by". Isn't this an allusion to Summertime, by Gershwin Snr and Dubose Heyward?Matthew - Shrewsbury, England