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Who Actually Wrote “The End of the Innocence”?

Who Actually Wrote “The End of the Innocence”?

You’re likely familiar with the hit song “The End of The Innocence.” It’s a great oldie sung by a much-loved musician. 

Released in 1989, it hit #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

But do you know who actually wrote it? The answer may surprise some of you. 

Let’s jump in!

Who Originally Wrote The End of The Innocence?

Don Henley wrote the lyrics to The End of Innocence, and Bruce Hornsby wrote the music for the song. Together they created a smash hit that’s lasted the test of time.

More About Don Henley

Don Henley was born July 22, 1947, in Gilmer, Texas. He started playing music in his high school band. Eventually, Henley became a player in Linda Rondstadt’s backup band. This is where he met most of the other members of the Eagles. 

Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner formed the Eagles in 1971 and created many iconic songs of the ’70s. Their hits “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” and “Witchy Woman” swept the charts. 

They broke up in 1980 after personal tensions exploded onstage. The band had been touring non-stop for years, and they were worn out. Drugs and alcohol also played a part, and unfortunately, the band imploded. Don Henley then embarked on his long and successful solo career.

More About Bruce Hornsby

Bruce Hornsby was born November 23, 1954, in Williamsburg, VA. His parents and two brothers were musicians. Bruce started his music career in his brother’s band. In 1974, his older brother Bobby Hornsby formed “Bobby Hi-Test and the Octane Kids.) They performed Grateful Dead covers at fraternity parties. 

In 1980 Bruce moved to LA with his songwriting partner and younger brother, John. In LA, they wrote music for 20th Century Fox for a few years. Bruce then joined Ambrosia until they soon disbanded. Afterward, he toured with Sheena Easton before forming Bruce Hornsby and the Range in 1984. 

Their hit song, “The Way it is,” was his biggest hit to this day. That year Bruce Hornsby and the Range won the Grammy for Best New Artist.

Bruce has had an illustrious career writing, singing, and producing. Besides Don Henley, he’s collaborated with some of the best and most globally-celebrated artists, such as The Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Sting, Huey Lewis, Bonnie Raitt, and Hall and Oates.

What Was Henley and Hornby’s Creative Process for The End of The Innocence?

Don Henley had previously collaborated on another hit with Mike Campbell, the guitarist from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That song was “Boys of Summer,” for which Henley won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Campbell actually offered Tom Petty the piece, but he declined. 

In 1987 Henley was working on his third solo album and asked Hornsby to collaborate, hoping to duplicate the “Boys of Summer” popularity. Hornsby gave Henley a track he had previously recorded. He said that “ seemed to spark something in him right away.” That song, The End of the Innocence, became the title track on the album.

The song’s lyrics are evocative and bittersweet. “Remember when the days were long, and rolled beneath a deep blue sky.” The words move on after those youthful summer days. “But happily ever after fails, and we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.” 

Henley manages to combine his political views with sweet nostalgia, “they’re beating plowshares into swords, for this tired old man that we elected king…somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us.” 

Finally, we hear the haunting chorus, “offer up your best defense, but this is the end, the end of the innocence.”

Henley draws the picture for us with his words, and Hornsby plucks at our emotions with his music. It’s a true masterpiece of two great artists at the height of their powers.

Where is Don Henley Now?

Don Henley is still writing, producing, and performing music solo and with the Eagles. The Eagles broke up in 1980 but reunited in 1994 for their Hell Freezes Over tour. The tour title references them, stating they would get back together when “hell freezes over.” 

The Eagles announced their “Hotel California” tour in 2022 from April 19th through June 26th. The tour features the song “Hotel California” accompanied by an orchestra and choir. They’ll also play some of their other greatest hits.

Where is Bruce Hornsby Now?

Bruce Hornsby has a new album, “Flicted, coming out this year. He’s also touring with The Noisemakers from June through October 2022. Hornsby still collaborates with other musicians, does his solo work, and scores music for television and film. 

He has famously composed and performed music for director Spike Lee. In addition, Bruce recently scored the music for Lee’s Netflix show “She’s Gotta Have It” (2017, 2019) and his movie “Blackkklansman” (2018).

Pure Talent Created The End of the Innocence 

Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby are both award-winning musicians with prolific careers. They created an iconic masterpiece with their collaboration on “The End of The Innocence.” The two have certainly proven they can make amazing music on their own. Yet, they also brought out the best in each other in “The End of The Innocence.” 

What are some of your all-time favorite music collaborations?


Monday 18th of April 2022

It’s always fun to learn the story behind a song I’ve loved for so long. Don’t think I ever knew Don Henley collaborated with Hornsby on this tune.

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