Eagles “Last Resort”
In the 1976 Eagles song “Last Resort,” Don Henley and Glenn Frey provide a fresh look at the concept of the last frontier. There is a gradual progression through the song that is an allegory for the East to the West migration set off by the gold rush in United States. The lyrics weave together historical, geographical, and religious messages. The socio-economic issues of the period, along with the writers’ cynical thoughts on humankind, combine to tell a depressing story about the ecological future of the country.
Environmental concern in the song takes the form of repeated references to paradise, within the context of places eventually ruined by people. In 1973 OPEC members imposed an oil embargo on the United States in retaliation for resupplying the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War. This led to a shortage of gasoline that highlighted the dependence on fossil fuels, and elevated awareness about environmental issues. One line in the song makes reference to the “Red Man’s Way, and how they loved the land,” a clear reference to the more sustainable lifestyle of American Indians, a lifestyle replaced by the “white man’s reign.” If one listens to the song without reading the lyrics, the line about “white man’s reign” might be interpreted as white man’s rain, or acid rain, an environmental condition first addressed by the U.S. government in the 70s. California land developers are scorned in the line “[s]ome rich men came and raped the land … put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought them.” Don Henley stated in a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone that he cared more about the environment than he did about songwriting, and that the environment was the reason for his involvement in politics.
Geographical and historical references are sprinkled throughout the song and solidify the image of Americans carving a path of destruction. In the first stanza, the protagonist comes from New England, packs her bags “like a refugee,...