Eagles loaded their gear into the studio on Sept. 10, 2001, to begin work on their first album of new material since 1979’s The Long Run. They didn’t make it to work the next day — but the tragic Sept. 11 terrorist attacks inspired their first single in nine years, the mournful “Hole in the World.”
“We were supposed to go to the studio on the morning of 9/11, but after hearing the news we called each other up and said, ‘What’s the point? I don’t think there’s anything worth showing up for today,'” Glenn Frey told Cameron Crowe for the liner notes to Eagles’ 2003 compilation The Very Best Of. “So we stayed home. And then that night Don [Henley] started ‘Hole in the World.'”
Henley added: “I sat down at the piano in my home studio and started putting some chords with the phrase ‘hole in the world.’ Just sort of wrote the refrain in one sitting. After that, the first verse came fairly quickly and then I was stuck.”
Henley sat on the idea for several months as he watched the United States’ response to these attacks culminate in the Iraq War, presenting additional meanings for his in-progress song.
“The fighting was supposedly over in May, and yet one or two or three of our boys were — and still are — getting killed every day, which means somebody’s daddy is not coming home. So that’s another ‘hole’ — a huge hole in somebody’s life — a child, a wife, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister,” Henley said.
“There are holes in the information that the public is getting, both from the media and the government,” he added. “There are holes in what passes for the logic of this administration’s foreign policy. The stars and stripes may be flying and the drums beating, but things are never going to be the same for some people.”
Watch Eagles’ Video for ‘Hole in the World’
Henley eventually showed the burgeoning “Hole in the World” to Frey, who wrote the song’s second verse. They both worked on a third verse but ultimately abandoned it “in favor of simplicity,” Henley said. “I originally envisioned it as a very short song, anyway, like those little snippets the Beatles used to do that only lasted for about a minute, but it turned out to be a little longer than that.”
Released on July 15, 2003, “Hole in the World” marked Eagles’ first single since 1994’s “Love Will Keep Us Alive.” The song peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a Grammy nomination for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals in 2004.
Even if it paled in comparison to the Eagles’ previous chart smashes, Frey lavished praise on “Hole in the World.” “Talk about a record that you know is the Eagles: ‘Hi, we’re in charge again,'” he said. “It’s all there. The big chorus, the ooohs under the verse. … It’s a classic Eagles record, I’m telling you.”
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