Don Henley Calls Frank Ocean ‘Hotel California’ Use ‘Illegal’

By Rob Markman

Although it’s been a year since Frank Ocean released his popular album Nostalgia, Ultra for free via his Tumblr account, his song “American Wedding” has recently attracted some negative attention. The track reworks the Eagles’ 1977 hit single “Hotel California” and this week Ocean revealed that the band’s founding member Don Henley has taken issue with that. The 24-year-old singer revealed the news earlier this week, and now Henley’s camp has responded with their own statement.

Henley’s spokesperson Larry Solters reached out to MTV News to clarify the matter. “Frank Ocean did not merely ‘sample’ a portion of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’; he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own,” he said in a written statement. “This is not creative, let alone ‘intimidating.’ It’s illegal.”

Ocean’s “American Wedding” is a standout from his free 2011 album Nostalgia, Ultra. Over the original Eagles track, Frank sings of a whirlwind romance that ends in heartbreak, employing some of the same harmonies that exist on the original record. During his live concerts, Ocean sings the song with graphics from the popular “Guitar Hero” video game playing in the background. It is one of the highlights of his live show, but according to the 24-year-old, he will face legal action if he continues to perform the song.

Solters says that isn’t the case — yet. “For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should,” he wrote.

On his Tumblr, Ocean wondered what all the fuss was about. “Sh–’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as f—? Why sue the new guy,” he wrote. “I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”