Eagles’ “On the Border” Lyrics Meaning

The title of this song (“On the Border”) is where its narrator(s) is situated.  However, it is not a physical location. Rather it is a symbolic one, and one way of looking at it is as it representing the volatility of his overall stability.  This is what he means when he says that he’s “walking the line”, as in his situation could go either way.

So with that idea of his life already having its challenges being established, then comes the antagonist of the song. Loosely speaking said adversary can be referred to as the government and more specifically as some type of law enforcement agency.  And its main characteristic is a tendency to invade the privacy of the singer and resultantly make his life more difficult than it already is.

Narrator is bullied by Intrusive Government

So in the first verse, this is manifest by the vocalist getting bullied by “big brother”, which is a colloquialism often applied to an intrusive government.  In the second verse, he is “safe at home”, having a telephone conversation with his significant other. And “out of nowhere” a voice interrupts their dialogue, basically accusing him of committing some type of wrongdoing.  This incident is based on the notion of the government/police wiretapping people’s phones and persecuting normal citizens. 

And the concept of them coming at unsuspecting individuals is really brought to life in the bridge. In the bridge, officials demand the singer’s “number”, “card” and knowledge of his affiliations. 

So you can say that he is just an average dude who is being treated like some sort of criminal suspect. But he apparently isn’t a criminal. He is just a law-abiding citizen who presents himself as someone striving for righteousness more so than anything else.


So conclusively, it is pretty obvious that “On the Border” deals with the topic of government surveillance. This song was actually dropped amidst the height of the Watergate Scandal. In that scandal, the President of the United States (Richard Nixon) was basically caught eavesdropping on naïve individuals. The singer might be implying that he was one of said victims. But what is clear is that the narrator is saying that such injustices – and then some – can easily be perpetrated against he, an average citizen, if “big brother” so willed it. 

All in all, it can be deduced that the Eagles are criticizing the American government. The narrator criticizes the government for having the audacity to pull off a stunt such as Watergate. And it should also be noted that this was also during a time when many progressive-minded Americans already had issues with their political leaders. And one such major issue was the nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War. So generally speaking, it can be deemed that the narrator does not have a favorable view of the authority figures in control of his country.

Lyrics of "On the Border"

Release Date of “On the Border”

This track is actually the title song from the Eagles’ third album. And it was released as such, by Asylum Records, on 22 March 1974.

U.S. President Richard Nixon mentioned in this song?

President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) is more or less directly referenced all the way at the end of the song when the phrase “say goodnight, D—” is whispered. FYI, Tricky D— was one of Nixon’s popular nicknames. 

Who wrote “On the Border”?

“On the Border” was written by the Eagles’ Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bernie Leadon. And the track was produced by Bill Szymcyzk.

1 Response

  1. Reggie says:

    Was verse changing ..water to wine abiblical referencing that the singer was actually trying to make a difference in the world or allowing his body to be a vessel

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