13 April 2014

When a Writer Questions an Artist

What happens when a writer questions the written words of a truly talented artist? Something completely unexpected and rather embarrassing is the answer.

One thing I would never do is question a literary icon about intent when it comes to his creations. If you don't understand allegories or metaphors, you have no business correcting someone about their artistic work on a technical level. My new hero is Don Henley (Eagles), for his answer to John Soeder in 2009 while being interviewed for The Plain Dealer. This man dared to correct an artist's choice of words.

The interview question?

On "Hotel California," you sing: "So I called up the captain / 'Please bring me my wine' / He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969.'" I realize I'm probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn't a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?

Assuming by "spirit" Henley must be referencing the wine in his written words, Soeder belittles the artist with his obnoxious question about regrets.

I love Henley's response:

Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you're not the first to bring this to my attention—and you're not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.[1]


This must have been a memorable moment for Mr. Soeder as he mentioned it while announcing his retirement back in 2012.

Don Henley and I locked horns, too, because I had the nerve to ask him about the wine-spirit confusion in the Eagles hit "Hotel California"; you can read all about it on Wikipedia.[2]

I'm making a correction here. You didn't "lock horns" with Henley, Mr. Soeder. What happened was something of the nature "he ate your lunch."

Let this be a lesson to the critics out there. Don't always assume your corrections mean anything to the Poet/Songwriter/Artist. We all love music, but if you want music to love you back, treat it with the respect it deserves.

1. Soeder, John. "Don Henley gets into the spirit talking about 'Hotel California'" The Plain Dealer March 20, 2009: T14

2. http://www.cleveland.com/pdq/index.ssf/2012/09/pop_music_critic_john_soeder_s.html

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