After scoring two consecutive Number One pop hits, “Best of My Love” and “One of These Nights,” the Eagles had a Number Two single late in 1975 with what would also become their biggest country hit. “Lyin’ Eyes,” penned by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, was a quintessential cheating song with production that featured Frey on lead vocals along with weepy guitar licks and piano accompaniment from future Warner Bros. Nashville label head Jim Ed Norman.
Over six minutes long in its original version from the One of These Nights LP, “Lyin’ Eyes” was cut down to just over four minutes for country radio. That was still considered a bit lengthy, so the single allegedly noted the runtime at 3:58. As it made its way up the pop survey — prevented from topping the chart by Elton John’s “Island Girl” — “Lyin’ Eyes” also climbed to Number Eight on Billboard‘s country chart.
The tune quickly proved popular with country singers as Lynn Anderson cut it for her 1976 LP All the King’s Horses, Buck Owens performed it (and other Eagles hits) on Hee Haw and Johnny Rodriguez included his version on the 1976 album Reflecting. The Eagles’ original version also backed the 1980 Johnny Lee smash, “Looking for Love,” from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.
But if further testament is needed as to the song’s (and indeed the Eagles’) influence, one could certainly consider this simple appraisal from one of the most gifted, successful and influential songwriters of all time, Dolly Parton: “The Eagles are one of my favorite groups,” Parton says in the above clip from a 1977 episode of her syndicated variety series in which she performed “Lyin’ Eyes.” “I think, really, one of the main reasons for their success is the songs they write, and here’s a song that I wish I’d written. But who wouldn’t?”
Parton makes the song her own, her feather-light voice conveying every heartbreaking note of the tune about a woman who can’t find love at home but also can’t hide her infidelity. She may be keeping up with the lyrics by way of a couple of “cheat sheets” on stage (which actually seems entirely appropriate), but there’s no disguising her deep appreciation for the song’s memorable melody and timeless content, making it an even more poignant performance and a shame that she has yet to record and release the song officially. In 1999, Parton included Eagles concert favorite “Seven Bridges Road” on her bluegrass LP The Grass Is Blue. And in 2015, her gorgeous duet with the Eagles’ Don Henley on the Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming” was an emotional highpoint of Henley’s solo LP Cass County.
This episode of Dolly! originally aired on January 15th, 1977, and also featured Ray Stevens, who performed a duet with the show’s host on “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby,” Parton’s first charting single in 1966 (and a Number One for Ronnie Milsap in 1986). Stevens and Parton, who both recorded for Monument Records in the mid-Sixties, were celebrating their respective, impending birthday: his on January 24th, Dolly’s on January 19th.
With the entertainer turning 70 today, Dolly’s younger sister Stella Parton marks the special occasion with the release of Mountain Songbird: A Sister’s Tribute, an LP on which she pays homage to the Country Music Hall of Fame member with her renditions of some of her older sibling’s best-loved songs, including “Jolene,” “The Seeker,” “I Will Always Love You” and “Coat of Many Colors.”