”I don’t call it a tribute album,” says Don Henley. ”That makes me nervous.” Rather, the ex-Eagle stresses Common Thread‘s singular purpose—to raise money for the Walden Woods Project, which he founded in 1990 in order to buy the land around Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. ”The good thing would be if we could finish the project with the money from this album and preserve a national treasure. I think that is more important than any tribute to the Eagles.”
Still, many performers and producers got involved with Common Thread because of their musical debt to the kings of ’70s Southern California rock. ”To me the Eagles were the greatest band in the world,” says Giant Records president and former Eagles manager Irving Azoff. ”I’d rather listen to Eagles music than Beatles music.” And Lorrie Morgan, who sings ”The Sad Cafe” on Common Thread, says, ”The Eagles were just downright damn cool! Even back then there was a little country in ’em.” Trisha Yearwood echoes that sentiment. ”To sum it up, they were cool,” she laughs. ”They were babes!”
Henley and Azoff began toying with the idea for Common Thread after a May 1992 Walden Woods benefit in Los Angeles at which several country artists appeared. ”We wanted to wait till the time was right,” says Henley, ”until this generation of country-music artists came of age.” Then, at last year’s Country Music Awards show, where Henley duetted with Yearwood, several artists told him how the Eagles’ music inspired them. With that confirmation, they began canvassing Nashville for interested artists. No problem. Producer James Stroud, who assisted them in organizing the album, says, ”Everybody wanted in. Once we started, the phones lit up.”
Whether the performers (or the other ex-Eagles) will be as moved by Henley’s philanthropy as by his music remains to be seen. All have the option of contributing their shares to the project. A reported 40 percent of the record’s proceeds (and Henley’s royalties) will go to Walden Woods, which still needs to raise more than $3 million to reach its goal.
Meanwhile, Henley sees nothing strange in resurrecting his old hits. ”I see it as a recycling of these songs for a new generation,” he chuckles. Spoken like a true environmentalist.