As the title implies, this song is about how quickly and drastically life can change. The underlying message is to treasure the good things you have because they could be gone tomorrow.
New York City is famous for its frantic pace, thus a "New York Minute" is even faster than a regular minute. While the song is about sudden change, it is also set in New York, beginning with the Wall Street worker who gets on a train to leave his life behind. The sound of sirens is also familiar to denizens of the city, and the park Henley refers to near the end is Central Park.
The song's co-writer Danny Kortchmar told us that Henley had the title in mind, and wanted the song to reflect the atmosphere of New York. "That's why those last verses he's singing, he's walking through the park and the leaves are rustling," Kortchmar explained. "He wanted to capture the essence of autumn or early winter in New York. We had the title, and we had kind of the idea. I sat down at the piano and started playing the chord changes that you hear, and at home I fooled around with it for a while. Then I went to him and I said, 'I think I've got something for 'New York Minute.'' I played it for him and he went, 'Yeah, that's it, that's it. Let's record it.' And we did."
Running 6:22, this was one of the longest hit songs of the year. The only other songs on the 1990 Hot 100 that ran over six minutes were "The Secret Garden" by Quincy Jones (6:40, #31) and "Freedom" by George Michael (6:28, #8).
Don Henley wrote the lyrics to this song, while the music was composed by his guitarist Danny Kortchmar and keyboard player Jai Winding. Kortchmar wrote five other songs on the album, including "If Dirt Were Dollars" and "How Bad Do You Want It?" Kortchmar cites it as one of the best songs he wrote with Henley.
The Eagles performed this song in their 1994 reunion concert, Hell Freezes Over.
Camille from Toronto, OhJon from Centerville, GA--yep, your description of what a New York minute means is pretty much right on the money. The red light turning green, the cabbie blowing the horn, the "instant" minute.
Ken from Louisville, KyWhen the Eagles performed this on their Hell Freezes Over MTV special in 1994, the orchestra was credited as the "Burbank Philharmonic". They actually were a group of studio classical musicians who played on movie soundtracks. The MTV special was shot on a Warner Brothers soundstage (in Burbank) with a studio audience.
Gatecrasher from New York, NyI have always believed that this song is at least in part inspired by the stock market crash of October 1987 and the ensuing recession.
Actually there are a lot of possible clues pointing to that time period, especially the tale of Harry in the first verse (a failed businessman or broker) and the later lines like "And in these days/When darkness falls early" as it does in late October, and "I pulled my coat over my shoulders/And took a walk down through the park/ The leaves were falling around me/ The groaning city in the gathering dark" using darkness as both a setting and a metaphor.
I understand how this song was used to commemorate 9/11 but enough of the BS that some people claim are "conspiracy" clues in it.
Jim from Pleasant Hill, CaRE the comment(s) on Harry: That, and other 9/11 inferences are adaptive hindsight, not some Henleyan prophecy. If you listen to the words, Harry is a guy who had superficial success but it lost its meaning through unexplained angst, not some external calamity. He probably either hitched a ride on a freight train and became a bum, or offed himself. This song only applies to 9/11 in a vague way. Countless individual losses add up each day and don't make headlines. I see the song as being about those incidents, not public tragedies.
Rick from Toronto, OnThere is a version of this song interspersed with the media coverage from 9/11 truly chilling and sad
Ken from Louisville, KyA lot of people thought it was Henley's hubris behind several of his solo songs - like this one - being part of Eagles' reunion tours. Actually, it was Glenn Frey's insistence. Frey loved Henley's solo albums of the 1980's and publicly praised them. He said many times that his goal was to do "an album as good as one of Don's."
Vivel from Killian, LaI think that the lyric "you better take a fool's advice and take care of your own" is kinda like karma. Take care of it--i.e. your stuff, your home, your family/friends--and it won't leave you. Which also returns to the "hang on tooth and nail" part.
Dave from Easton, PaKind of spooky to think that no one could have, in their wildest nightmare, come up with what happened on Sept.11, and how this song was written so long before the tragedy actually happened. Consider the line, " ...Better take a fool's advise, and take care of your own, cause one day they're, the next day they're gone." That's chilling.
Alan from Greene, RiThis is one of the saddest songs I know, but one which matches music and lyrics perfectly. the lyric "...you better hang on tooth and nail" -- is daily life for most of us, but we don't think about it until a "NY minute" suddenly reveals the truth of this.
Scott from Kings Park, NyIf you read the first 4 lines of the lyrics...this happened to some people on Sept. 11....There were a lot of Harry's.. Harry got up Dressed all in black Went down to the station And he never came back
Scott from Kings Park, NyIt is true....everything can change...in a New York Minute. Could even be a second or two.
Timbo from Wilmington, NcNew York Minute is a great song. Imagine it was you who wrote it. I assure you, Mr. Henley deserves a lot of respect for coming up with material like this.....Compare this song to rap/hip hop/...any kid can make up rhymes all day long...but on New York Minute, you actually must have thought process to make a song like this flow like wine....Great Job!!!
Jon from Centerville, GaA New York Minute is absolutely NOT 30 seconds. A New York Minute is defined as the time between when the traffic light turns green, and the cabbie behind you honks his horn to get you to go. Basically, it's supposed to be "an instant."
Ken from Louisville, KyThe line "Somebody's going to emergency/Somebody's going to jail" was used as a title to an episode of "The West Wing". A brief passage from the song was used in the episode.
Millerman from Dacusville, Sc1 New York minute = 30 seconds
Enrique from LimaYou are right in saying that this song speaks of how quickly life can change in a moment. I guess this took a whole new meaning after the September 11th events. Things really changed for thousands of people "in a New York minute"