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Dirty Laundry

by

Don Henley



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about unscrupulous newspeople doing anything for a story. Henley values his privacy, and hates it when reporters pry into his personal life. He had to deal with increased press attention when his girlfriend, Maren Jensen, came down with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. She recovered, but they broke up soon after.
Danny Kortchmar, who played on definitive albums by James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, wrote this song with Henley. Kortchmar (sometimes listed on the credits with his nickname "Kootch") is a key contributor to Henley's solo work. In our interview with Kortchmar, he explained that Henley had the title and the idea for the lyrics, and the track came together when Danny came up with a riff on his Farfisa organ. Said Kortchmar: "One night I set it up, ran it into an Echoplex and started banging out that part that you hear on the record. I was up into the wee hours banging away on this thing. That's when I recorded it, and when I played it for Don the next day, I said, 'I think this is 'Dirty Laundry.'' He said, 'Yeah, that's it. Record it and let's go.'"
There are some very interesting guitar contributions on this song: Danny Kortchmar played the basic parts, Joe Walsh did the first guitar solo, and Steve Lukather did the second solo. According to Lukather, who is a member of the band Toto, he did his solo in one take and it's one of his favorites.
In November of 1980, Henley was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of marijuana, cocaine, and Quaaludes after paramedics treated a 16-year-old girl suffering from drug intoxication at his Los Angeles home. This incident was a big influence on the song. (thanks, Stevie Lee - WSFR, Louisville)
The lyrics make fun of news anchors who are more concerned with their looks than accurately reporting the news. Many local news stations have at least one "bubble headed bleach blond." The folks who work behind the scenes in local news are usually well aware of the superficial and vapid product they create, and many stations have used this song on their TV station blooper reels. Before YouTube, these local news bloopers lived on tapes tucked away in the dark corners of newsrooms.
This was Henley's first Top 40 hit as a solo artist, but it wasn't his first single. "Johnny Can't Read," which peaked at #42, was released first.
Henley didn't tour to support the I Can't Stand Still album. He went right to work on his second solo album, Building The Perfect Beast.
Don Henley
Don Henley Artistfacts
More Don Henley songs
More songs that were an artist's first hit

Comments (53):

Unfortunately, very little has changed. The news media are so cynical and hypocritical. They distract us with news stories that have nothing remotely to do with the general public. I'd encourage anyone to read Jesse Ventura's books, particularly his 2000 book, "Do I Stand Alone?". No one has held the news media accountable, particularly Nancy Grace, who's driven two people to take their own lives, after declaring them guilty on national television.
- Dana, Woodbury, MN
See, and I always thought Henley said that "crass" was king.
- T. Jay, Grand Junction, CO, CO
I don't understand that when I heard Dirty Laundry on the radio the first time, my friends freaked out and smiled saying to each other "Hey, Chuck Flanagan's guitar piece is on the radio"! Then 20 some odd years later we heard that Joe Walsh and Steve Lukather played the solos (?) It sure sounds like Chuck playing. It sounds like Chucks composition with the echo on the first solo and the notes bending "up" on the 2nd solo. I can't believe thats Steve Lukather playing the 2nd solo, cause it is a very DIFFICULT solo do to! I swear that's Chuck being recorded onto the master tape!! We find it hard to believe that someone else is playing the 1st and 2nd solos. Chuck's material is NOT easy for anyone else to do and feel that he needs his name on the credits for he IS a master of guitar! Bob, of Fortuna, Calif
- bob, fortuna, CA
Dear Sirs: From 1970 to 1980 I personally knew a guitarist name Chuck Flanagan who did awesome guitar playing & said he was going to audition for Don Henley in 1980. Chuck played a instrumental that he composed that starts with a slide guitar (metal tube) on his finger. Anyway, I hear that Joe Walsh and Steve Lukather play the lead solos. okay. What u guys don't mention that Kortchmar auditioned blues guitar players in San Diego and in Guitar Player magazine, an article interview with Kortchmar said that when he heard Chuck play an original that Chuck made up,
Henley said THAT is the lead guitar solo were looking for! My friends and i personally knew Chuck for a long time and we feel HE
should get the credit that he truly deserves! I looked all over the internet for his name and there is nothing there, except a t -shirt
that says UNSUNG guitar heroes with a dozen names on it including his name. Chuck resembles the (late) Hagard Twins from "Hee Haw".
- bob, fortuna, CA
I liked the phone ringing in time with the beat near the end.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
Jason in West Hollywood nailed it! The song is about Christine Lund, a local LA anchor at the time,who tried to sensationalize Henley deal with the 16 year old girl @ his LA mansion.
- Jim, Long Beach, CA
Okay, here is the truth about "DIRTY LAUNDRY". Don was so upset about the coverage on KABC-LA coverage about the 16 year old girl. This {great song)was directed at one person; Christine Lund! Make no mistake: Don lives in LA, The deal with the 16 yr old girl happened in LA. Christine Lund went wild about this story"BUBBLE HEADED BELACH BLOND" Christine Lund that [came]on @ 5 (on KABC)
- Jason, W. Hollywood,Ca, CA
For Neal: Do you know the first name of newswomen Kraft. Can't always believe the internet, four sites (lyricsmania.com, metrolyrics.com, lyricsty.com, lyricsdomain.com) claim 'crap' is the word used but I like your story better. Thanks for the info...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Contrary to popular belief, the line is NOT "....crap is king" but instead it is "....Kraft is king". It is a reference to a well known West Coast newswoman who was canned because she wasn't "pretty enough".
- Neal, Hooterville, MI
This is a song about the old TV news anchor Christine Lund, who in the 80's worked for the networks in Los Angeles. Who Henley felt gave him bad press over the under-age girl found passed out in his Hollywood mansion..
- Jim, Long Beach, CA
Just one more from me; on the track "Johnny Can't Read", as the song fades out Don adds 'There's a new kid in town'...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I'm back; there's a track on "I Can't Stand Still" called 'Long Way Home'. I think it contains a great lesson: "There's three sides to every story: Yours and mine and the cold, hard truth"
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
A local AM rock station here in Utica, NY {WTLB-AM} banned this song from their playlist because of the word 'crap'; although it's FM sister station did play the song...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The Eagles did this song on the Long Road Out Of Eden tour
- Chase, Miami, FL
Actually Joe Walsh played all the leads. I totally agree with this song if I get famous, I want privacy, get me?
- Chase, Miami, FL
Rob of ashland, correct me if i'm wrong but i guess it's Frank Simes who played the 1st lead on this track, (Joe W played this live in "Farewell Tour").

Chris of milford, thanx for the additional info on Lukather playing the 2nd part,

also thanx to Ken of Leicester on contributing info that Jef Porcaro played the drums on this "virtuosically made" music - eric J
- Eric J, Antipolo City, , Philippines
In recent years, I've seen the Eagles perform this song live several times. Henley always dedicates it to Nancy Grace.
- Fred, L.A., CA
Nice song. I think Don Henley has an interesting sense of humor. He informs people about things in a funny way.
- Liz, Smallville, KS
Don Henley nailed it. This is where America has been for the last generation, and that's why we can't respond satisfactorily to madmen like Osama bin Laden, why we have the likes of two dimensional businessmen such as George Bush as President...because everything in America is for sale. Glorifying violence and ignorance while filling our children's heads with garbage just to make a buck says it all; we're done. Dwight Eisenhower, Marshall McLuan, Newton Minnow, and others have tried to warne us but we were and are too ignorant to see that the lack of genuine values (while lusting for immediate, fleeting, hedonistic gratification) spells our doom. In 2008, an idealistic white woman and a visionary black man were our last best hope, but we were too racist and too sexist to seize the fortuitous opportunity to save ourselves. Sadly, songwriter Don Henley has become a prophet of the post-modern era.
- Larry, New York City, NY
It was his first hit as a solo artist, but not his first single. That would be "Johnny Can't Read."
- Tim, Denver, CO
I enjoyed watching the Eagles perform this on their Farewell 1 Tour Live from Melbourne DVD.
- Eric, Beaverton, OR
Great song! Don Henley hits the nail right on the head with a hammer full of truth
- Fatty, Fu, CA
This is a great song. Shows how far the media goes to make big bucks. The song truly is a reminder of how the media makes sure "the crap is king".
- Camylle, Kent, WA
The reason this song is so great is that after all of these years the words still ring true, as a matter of fact, I think the media has become 100x worse since the release. I heard this song when I was 9 yrs old and loved it. My best friends mother sat me down one day and had me listen to everything from the eagles and I have been hooked ever since. I learned how to sing harmony by listening to henley and this song started my love of music. I will never forget the first time I heard Henley sing, it honestly changed my life, and isn't that we all want from the music we love? I have seen him live about 8 times and I will see him anytime he comes around, solo or with the eagles. His voice soothes me no matter what mood I am in!
- jennifer, diamond, OH
This is my favorite of Henley's solo hits, and one of my favorite songs from the '80s. The lyrics certainly are not subtle, but they are effective.
- N.I., Baltimore, MD
The best use of this song was during the O.J. Simpson trial. VH1 showed a clip of Kato and played the lyric "well I could have been an actor but I wound up here. I just have to look good, I don't have to be clear."
- Anne, Dodge City, KS
Christine Lund was the inspiration for the female lead in Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgandy. Also, the line "is the head dead yet?" is a reference to the assassination attempt on Reagan. His press secretary James Brady was shot in the head and survived but was reported dead by the media.
- Pytlak, Bakersfield, CA
The line bubble headed bleach blonde who comes on at 5 is about a former L.A. anchor named Christine Lund from ABC 7
- billy, beverly hills, CA
"Dirty Laundry" is an honest message song that is also entertaining, memorable, and ageless. I guess that makes Don Henley some kind of a genuis! ...at least where the creation of this song is concerned. What really fascinates me is how truthful it is; just look at how the Daily News and the New York Post in NYC have de-evolved over the last 20 years from any semblance of newspapers to hate-mongering yellow tabloid trash.
- Bill, Queens, NY
"It's interesting when people die." My favourite line.
- Maxwell, Houston, TX
I think this song speaks aptly about how the nighty news has evolved from being a public service to becoming a "Business." The search for profit through advertising rates has affected the types of content the viewer is likely to see. Stories on murder, rape, violence always come before the story on the important city council meeting. Sadly, If it bleeds, it leads. I like the line - "The boys in the newsroom have a running bet" - to me it shows how the love for money can somehow erode all feeling of empathy - Get the widow on the set!
Great Song!
- jason, sunshine coast, Canada
The "Bubble-headed Bleach Blond" has been rumored to be Christine Lund, who was the KABC (Channel 7) female news anchor in Los Angeles at the time the song was recorded. KABC was by far the news leader in town at the time. Her hair was in a style that made her head look like a bubble, with a flip at the bottom (think early Carol Brady).
- Rob, Battle Ground, WA
I'm 15 years old and I LOVE this song for some reason! I don't know, maybe it's the tune and the rythm or maybe the interesting (and yet, true) lyrics.... My sister HATES this song and always yells at me to turn it off when I play my Don Henley Actual Miles CD in my room! Ha ha ha ha ha.... She hates Don Henley too. I don't understand. I guess she's just ignorant.
- Cassie, Lake Almanor, CA
actaully steve lukather plays the second solo, sorry
- chris, milford, CT
Joe Walsh plays lead guitar on this track.
- Rob, Ashland, OH
don henly is a funny guy no wonder why joe walsh clicked with the eagles
- dale, rumford, ME
That's amazing Karen from NY and true for Ashley from WV. Kick em when they up, kick em when they down is what those type of news people do.
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
Not to belabor the obvious here, but the keyboard opening (and through the rest of the song) is meant to emaulate the sound of a teletype.
- Jameson, Lexington, KY
Henley*
- meg, BR, LA
wow great song!

its been stuck in my head all day and i decided to do something about it.
love don heley, hes a great artist
- meg, BR, LA
Having worked at a local TV station for over 10 years, this song is SO true. Many on the news staff and editors are junkies for death, destruction, gore and "dirty laundry" (especially if they're on the other side of the political aisle). Of course, they don't like you to see THEIR dirty laundry, which can lead to sudden anchor and reporter swaps or firings if it's discovered. There was once a change of programming ahead of time to extend the news show, just in case of violence. They were almost hoping for violence in anticipation of the adrenaline rush while covering it.
- Vern, Colorado Springs, CO
When Don Played with The Eagles Farewell I Tour after he says
"Get the widow on the set, we need dirty laundry"
He says "clean it up Joe".
- Mike, Winnipeg, Canada
Yes, I'm sure Dan Rather loved 9-11. That's why he burst out crying on the Letterman show the weeks later.
- craig, madison, WI
The majority of people that work in the televison news business will admit that every word in the lyric is true - Hendley nailed the "nature of the beast" perfectly.
- Ken, Louisville, KY
This song was playing repeatedly in the background of my mind as I watched the reporting of the horrific events of 9-11-01: "We've got the bubbleheaded bleach-blonde who comes on at 5. She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. It's interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry." It was really sick to observe how much Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and the rest seemed to take such pleasure in human suffering. Still, why blame them, as long as audiences support them by flocking to their TVs in morbid curiosity.
- Eric, Cincinnati, OH
Don always dedicates this to Rupert Murdoch when he performs it.
- Dan, Winthrop, MA
Lisa Marie Presley did a remake of this song. It's not that bad of a cover
- Lisa, a town in, PA
A classic for the ages. This was a song I enjoyed when it first came out, but I was 13 and didn't truely understand it's meaning until I was older. It hits the nail right on the head though with all the over sensationalism of the news.
- Dee, Indianapolis, IN
It's amazing how much worse things have become 23 years after this song came out! In the years since 1982, the media, television, sensationalism masquerading as news, etc., have gotten far worse. Just think of how many things have come along that fit right into this song's lyrics: Jerry Springer, Fox News and all their pundits, the O.J. media circus (and now Michael Jackson), reality TV, Fear Factor, and on and on. It would be interesting to hear Don Henley's comments on the matter. He's probably become angrier and angrier as he sat and watched all of this develop.
- Ashley, Charleston, WV
Appeared in Season 1 Episode 20 of Cold Case on CBS. The name of the episode is "Greed."
- Jonathan, Natchitoches, LA
I love the music theme that sounds like a washing machine.
- Karen, Lily Dale, NY
Jeff Porcaro on the drums !!!
- ken, Leicester, NC
Danny Kortchimar who co-wrote this with Henley also produced the River of Dreams CD for Billy Joel. Kortchimar is very aggressive in handling the music, and convinces Joel to use an entirely new set of musicians to record. Kortchimar himself played guitar on several of the tracks.
- Paul, Greenwood, SC
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