Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
But I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow

Don't you draw the Queen of Diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the Queen of Hearts is always your best bet

Now, it seems to me some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home

And freedom, oh freedom, well that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you
Before it's too late

Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"Desperado" as written by Don Hugh Henley Glenn Lewis Frey

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Desperado song meanings
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  • +29
    General CommentIt's funny that everyone looks at this song (well, most people)as a song about a relationship. I don't think it necessarily has to be about a relationship but rather I see it as a comment on a person's general attitude towards life. Like one friend talking to another or an older person to a younger, giving them their observations about that person's behavior. The friend is trying to warn the person that if you live your life "on the fence", never committing to anything - whether that's a relationship, a family, a job, etc - you will never know true joy. While you may shield yourself from pain, by not getting 'involved', you are also not allowing yourself to experience happiness. In order to know happiness, you have to know pain ("you're losing all your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?"). That is the result of a life lived with no strings attached. And how free are you really? You aren't - you think you are, but you're actually a prisoner of your own making. You built the walls, put up the cage, and threw away the key. So that's why at the end he says freedom is just some people talkin and that you should come down from your fence and open the gate. Get into life - live it. I could learn a thing or two from my own words here. I guess that's why I like the song.
    richgirl90on December 22, 2009   Link
  • +11
    General CommentThe "Desparado" is a freespirit who is afraid to love. Amazing song!
    SomeGirl_Jadziaon August 26, 2002   Link
  • +9
    General Commentyeah i think its about like, loving the wrong woman. The Queen of Diamonds is like, the woman who uses the man for money but the queen of hearts is the woman who truly loves the man. But the desperado is in love with the woman of diamonds. Sad song, but its great
    egut521on September 05, 2002   Link
  • +9
    General CommentI think this is a song about a man who won't grow up, a man who wants all the wrong things. He's immersed himself in the materialistic, quick pleasures of life. The expense of this is that no one can get too close. Like so many young men, he clings to the idea of freedom, afraid of giving his independence to someone who could abuse him. Afraid to open his heart to the possibility of breaking.
    God, I love this song.
    While Clint Black (?) mastered this song on Common Thread, it could never measure up to the original. Henley is in a class of his own.

    You can't have-a de mango!
    mango1560on April 28, 2003   Link
  • +9
    My InterpretationI was reading through all of these interpretations, and I think I am going to take a stab at it, because I feel like this song is (sadly) my life verbatim. Although obviously mentions a woman, I do not feel this song is solely about a relationship. I think this is more about a man who is terrified of love and affection. Scared to let anyone close because he has been hurt before once or many times. He thinks that he is happier in this world of isolation that he has created for himself that he ever could be in the "real" world. Some people also say this song is about addiction, and it may be, but bad decisions and self isolation don't have to be the result of an addiction.

    First off he mentions "You've been out ridin' fences for so long now" which I take to mean that this is obviously a choice he has made to isolate himself. In the old west, people would leave their homes for sometimes weeks at a time to "ride fences" to check and make sure their lands were safe. The singer then mentions that he knows the man has his reasons for being the way he is. He doesn't dispute whether or not the man's feelings or valid, only that his choices are hurting him.

    I think the queen of diamonds/queen of hearts thing is pretty self explanatory but it could also simply be a reference to the fact that money cannot buy happiness in any capacity. "It seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table..." confirms this in my mind, because according to the singer, the man doesn't seem to appreciate all that he does have because he is always looking for better and more than what he has already.

    Then he tells the man that he isn't getting any younger (as in he is wasting the time that he does have, which makes me think this is an older man talking to a son/grandson/good friend). He references the pain and hunger of the loneliness the man feels, and then says "Freedom? That's just some people talking...) as if to tell the man that he cannot justify shutting everyone out of his life by calling it freedom, because all he is doing is creating another cage for himself where he is more miserable that what he is trying to hide from. He points out that he still has a "prison," just one that he created while trying to avoid another prison.

    Then he begins to reason with the man, and try to force an introspective by asking him how can he possibly be happy in a situation like this. Cold is usually a metaphor for loneliness, hence the cold feet in wintertime. The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine, to me, means that life is not happening like it is supposed to normally, because of the isolation that he has chosen to keep himself in. Everything runs together because there is no change from day to day, which, in my opinion, is what the next line is about (not drugs).

    "You're losing all your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feelin goes away." To me, this perfectly references the general apathy that sets in when a person does this to themselves. When you don't have the ups and downs that come with an every day normal life, you begin to stop caring, and eventually you stop feeling anything. Nothing matters anymore, good or bad. This is a very easy pit to fall into and a very hard one to climb out of. Just like the singer is trying to convince this guy that he needs change...once the point of apathy is reached, it is required for someone else to point these things out to you because you are just coasting through life with no feelings.

    Then he tells him to come down from the fences. He tells him that although it is raining, there is a rainbow above him (to point out that life is not as bad as he feels it is), Then and I think this is one of the key words of the entire song, from which I base my interpretation. He says "You better LET somebody love you, before it's too late."

    To me this is just his attempt to show the man, with his choice of words, that this man has brought this all on himself. There are people out there who want to love him. He is not a bad guy. He is just so afraid of opening himself up again that he doesn't want to risk it.

    I think this entire song is great because the singer can empathize with the man with whom he is talking. He tells him that he cannot be happy trying to live an isolated life just to try to spare the pain of every day life. Things happen, both good and bad, and hiding from them isn't going to remove pain from your life, just give you more pain, and nobody to be there for you when you hurt. I dunno, I just figured I would take a stab at it.
    AUengineer50on June 24, 2015   Link
  • +5
    General CommentTo me it is metaphorical. Desperado must choose a path in life. The things that are pleasing (drugs) or a bad habit, hurt somehow. If you live for money, and draw the Queen of Diamonds (she'll beat you), so remember that the Queen of Hearts (love) is your friend. Drop the psychological walls that protect your bruised ego. Let somebody love you, before it's too late, for your soul. -Cadgbd
    karmacaton December 30, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Comment"don't you draw the queen of diamonds boy, she'll beat you if she's able, you know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet" - i think this means that he must win her over with emotions and feelings,rather than material gifts.
    turtonhoton April 29, 2002   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI agree with most of what's been posted here, and I want to add a few comments that I don't think anyone's explored (my apologies is someone has).

    First, this is clearly a song from a friend or confidant to a man who refuses to commit. But I read it as being directed toward a middle-aged or older man, not a young man. I'll get to the reasons why I think so shortly. Let's take a walk through the lyrics:

    Pretty obvious start. The Desperado has refused to make a decision (he's "been out ridin' fences for so long now.") He's set in his ways ("you're a hard one") and he's pursuing things that, in the end, don't make him very happy. ("These things that are pleasin' you [money, alcohol, sex, drugs, maybe even hobbies or distractions] can hurt you somehow.")

    These distractions are personified by the Queen of Diamonds. She glitters. She's money. She's sex. She's beautiful and alluring. But the Queen of Hearts (love personified) is a better bet.

    "Some fine things have been laid upon your table." The Desperado has options but always wants something that is out of reach.

    OK, here's where I read things differently than other listeners. "Desperado, you ain't gettin' no younger. Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home." When do we say, poetically, that someone has gone home? When they die. I would paraphrase this verse as, "You're getting old. All this pain and hunger is going to kill you."

    After the next, pretty obvious line, he reiterates, to me, that he's speaking to an older man. "Don't your feet get cold in the Wintertime?" Someone who has cold feet is afraid to commit, and speaking poetically, the Wintertime can easily be seen as the Winter of someone's life (the last quarter). Therefore, I see it as, "Isn't it hard to commit when you get older?"

    I think it's wonderful that right after an allusion to the seasons, he goes on to talk about weather. But again, I'm not taking "The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine" literally. This, along with the next line, "(It's hard to tell the nighttime from the day") refer to the following line about losing all your highs and lows. In a world with no highs and lows, there is neither sunshine nor snow; neither night nor day.

    Let somebody love you, old man, before it's too late.
    IronTacoon January 04, 2014   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis is such a beatiful song. Henley's singing in this song is probably one of the greatest ever recorded.

    I heard he won't let the Eagles play this song unless he is there to sing it.
    Muzzyon March 06, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song is about a woman ( or a man ) who is afraid to let herself fall in love and let herself be loved. In the first verse it says "i know that you got your reasons"...referring to reasons why she won't let herself be in love, maybe because she was hurt before...that is her reason. Then there is this one person (the singer) who is in love with her whom she keeps overlooking, waiting for something better or perhaps she can't see through the "rain" (her previous pain) that this person(the singer) is waiting to love her. If she would "come down from your fences", or let go of her insecurities and let herself go, then maybe she will see the rainbow through the clouds and let herself be loved.
    blakeraeon March 07, 2002   Link

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