‘It’s a real d**k move, man’: Okkervil River says Don Henley demanded cover song be taken down

Okkervil River should have paid closer attention to the saga between the Eagles’ Don Henley and Frank Ocean a few years ago. Back then, Henley so frustrated the R&B singer’s efforts to give away an updated version of “Hotel California” that Ocean was moved to exclaim: “Ain’t this guy rich as fuck?”

See, Henley really, really … REALLY … doesn’t like it when somebody makes an unauthorized cover of his music, whether they are selling their version or not.

Enter Okkervil River, who have been releasing interpretive sessions for free via their website since 2007 — in a series the Austin-based indie band has dubbed the Golden Opportunities Mixtape. The latest, which once included their take on Henley’s 1989 smash “The End of the Innocence,” was released to coincide with Silver Gymnasium. That 2013 studio effort, Okkervil River’s seventh, focused on frontman Will Scheff’s 1980s-era adolescence in New Hampshire, so the accompanying online-only free mixtape featured relevant covers from the period — including Wang Chung, Cyndi Lauper and … well, you know.

Not anymore. As with Ocean, who said he was contacted by the Eagles’ legal team, Okkervil River say they quickly became the focus of Henley’s wrath. Talk about the end of the innocence, right?

“Don Henley made me take down a cover of ‘The End of the Innocence’ that I’d had on there,” Sheff tells TheMusic.com.au. “I really love ‘The End of the Innocence’ sincerely, and it’s a real dick move, man. I guess he’s an old-fashioned guy who doesn’t understand. I mean the fucking thing was free! I don’t really get what his issue with it was, it’s not like I was making money: I figure that’s all he fucking cares about anyway, know what I mean? It’s not like I was making money off it, but he still made me take it down.”

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  • TommyG

    Don Henley may or may not be a dick. I don’t know him. That being said, the matter is not whether you’re making money off the song or not. The song is his property, his intellectual property and one must ask permission before availing himself of someone else’s material. Yes, he’s as rich as fuck, but the fact that he’s wealthy does not exclude him from his rights. One couldn’t take a piece of graphic art, say one painted by Alexander Calder (he’s dead, but he’s my favorite) and just decide to use his art as your album cover without first getting permission. Perhaps your music isn’t what he would have wanted associated with his work. Perhaps it’s exactly the kind of music he would want associated with his art. The only way to know is to ask. Don Henley has every right to control how his property is used. If he’s a dick, that’s not what would make him one.

    • TommyStevens

      Actually, if it were for sale, it wouldn’t be necessary to ask him. Once a song has been released, it’s subject to compulsory licensing, which means that anyone who notified the copyright holder and pays royalties is allowed to record it. I’m guessing that since no money was involved, Henley could say that since he wasn’t getting paid, he could stop it. I’m not sure that’s the way the law works, but he can afford an intimidating legal team, so people probably aren’t inclined to argue.

      • TommyG

        I stand corrected. From what I found online the going rate for a cover song recorded is 10 cents for every copy made whether it’s sold or given away and the copyright holder does not have to be asked or give his approval. Thanks for the information.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Downloading is a war crime. Execute them all.

  • mbg41

    Maybe he asked them to take it down because it sucked. Judging from the clip above, I’d agree with him.

  • Millionsix

    Here’s an idea. Come up with your own damn music. If you can’t do that then don’t be a musician.

    • I sure am glad Jimi Hendrix (covering Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’) and Aretha Franklin (covering Redding’s ‘Respect’) didn’t heed your advice, or we never would have had their transformative interpretations of those ample originals. Isn’t putting your own stamp on music that influenced you another sign of musicianship?

      • Millionsix

        The difference is these people stole what wasn’t allowed.

    • They have actually written and released seven albums of all their own music, so I’d say they have every “right” to be musicians, and every right to do a creative cover of a song written by a washed up has-been.

      • Millionsix

        Apparently the law doesn’t agree with you.

        • The law doesn’t agree with what? They haven’t released 7 albums? They don’t have the right to be a band? Don Henley isn’t a washed up has been? I’m assuming you mean they don’t have the right to cover the song. Perhaps you’re right. They should have sought permission. I was mainly responding to your initial point that a band shouldn’t exist if they don’t write “their own damn music” which they clearly have done.