“Dirty Laundry“ is a hit song written by Don Henley and Danny Kortchmar, from Henley’s debut solo album I Can’t Stand Still, released in 1982. The song hit #1 on the Billboard Top Album Tracks chart in October 1982, prior to being issued as a 45. Lyrically, the song describes mass media sensationalism and yellow journalism, featuring sound effects such as ringing phones and cameras taking pictures.
Released as the second single from I Can’t Stand Still, it spent four weeks at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1983. The single was quickly certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, representing sales of over one million records in the US.
The song is about the callousness (and callowness) of TV news reporting as well as the tabloidization of all news. Henley sings from the standpoint of a news anchorman who “could have been an actor, but I wound up here”, and thus is not a real journalist. The song’s theme is that TV news coverage focuses too much on negative and sensationalist news; in particular, deaths, disasters, and scandals, with little regard to the consequences or for what is important (“We all know that crap is king”). The song was inspired by the intrusive press coverage surrounding the deaths of John Belushi and Natalie Wood, and Henley’s own arrest in 1980. Lines in the second verse, “Is the head dead yet?”, actually comes from journalism lingo, and refers to the major headline story being ready to post or print. If a head is dead, it has already been set and is being printed or created, and it is now too late to make changes to the story.
Among the musicians on the record were Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, two of Henley’s Eagles bandmates. Walsh performs the first guitar solo, followed by Steve Lukather of the band Toto; the guitar basic tracks are played by Danny Kortchmar who also helped Henley composing this song. Jeff Porcaro (also of Toto) plays the drums on this track.
|Guitar (solo)||Joe Walsh|
|Guitar (solo)||Steve Lukather|
|Background Vocals||Danny Kortchmar|
|Background Vocals||George Gruel|
|Background Vocals||Timothy B. Schmit|
|Background Vocals||Don Henley|