The Real Meaning Behind “Tequila Sunrise” By The Eagles
The Eagles’ 1973 hit “Tequila Sunrise” is the single most responsible for our desire to get drunk on lousy drinks and go crazy. The song, which was included on their second album Desperado, has remained a fan favorite ever since.
Don Henley and Glenn Frey had never written songs together at this point; instead, they both preferred to compose their parts separately before meeting in the studio. But during the recording for their sophomore album, they got together, and after sitting down for a week, they began to write the album’s title tune along with the first hit “Tequila Sunrise.”
This joyful tune showcases the most eloquent side of the California close harmony devotees, with its oozing lap steel guitar and drenching yearning for a simpler time. When it came time to pen the words, the songwriting duo decided to stick to familiar territory. In the liner notes to 2003’s The Very Best Of, Henley says, “That’s one song I don’t get tired of. ‘Take another shot of courage’ refers to tequila – because we used to call it ‘instant courage.’ We very much wanted to talk to the ladies, but we often didn’t have the nerve, so we’d drink a couple of shots and suddenly it was, ‘Howdy, ma’am.’”
Moreover, Henley thought that the song was the ideal allegory for drinkers in California. “I believe that was a Glenn title,” Henley continued. “I think he was ambivalent about it because he thought that it was a bit too obvious or too much of a cliche because of the drink that was so popular then. I said ‘No – look at it from a different point of view. You’ve been drinking straight tequila all night, and the sun is coming up!’ It turned out to be a really great song.”
Frey agreed with Henley and even confessed that he “love the song.” “I think the goal of any songwriter is to make a song appear seamless, to never show the struggle. Nothing should sound forced. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ was written fairly quickly, and I don’t think there’s a single chord out of place.”