Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
EAGLES, Witchy Woman, Album: Eagles (1972)
Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon started writing this song when he was a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Once he joined the Eagles, he and Don Henley finished the song in Eagles fashion. It was one of the first songs Henley wrote.
Leadon and Henley wrote this about a number of women they had met. It is not meant to portray the woman as devilish, but as more of a seductress.
“Witchy Woman” was the group’s second single, following “Take It Easy.” It was part of their first album, which was produced by Glyn Johns, an Englishman who had previously worked with The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. They recorded it at Olympic Studios in London in just three weeks; the group became far less efficient over time – their 1979 album The Long Run took more than two years to make.
According to the liner notes for The Very Best of the Eagles, the song originated with guitarist Bernie Leadon playing a “strange, minor-key riff that sounded sort of like a Hollywood movie version of Indian music.” The song’s lyrics didn’t develop until Henley went down with a flu and high fever while he was reading a book about Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda had to deal with her husband’s alcoholism and her own mental health issues; she ended up spending a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals. “I think that figured into the mix somehow – along with amorphous images of girls I had met at the Whisky [a Go Go] and the Troubadour,” he recalled.
One of the girls who formed the “Witchy Woman” composite was the roommate of a girl Don Henley was dating in the early ’70s. She practiced “white witchcraft,” dabbling in the paranormal with good intentions. “I thought it was charming and seductive,” Henley told Rolling Stone, “but I never took any of it seriously.”A few years later, Henley dated perhaps the most famous white witch of the era: Stevie Nicks.
Yet another influence Don Henley cites for the lyric is the author Carlos Castaneda, who at the time was studying at UCLA. Castaneda often wrote about enchantment and altered states of consciousness.