Steely Dan: Deacon Blues

Jan 10th, 2013 by Nicholas Pell in Music

Happy Feast of Saint Fagen one and all. Donald Fagen, everyone’s favorite member of Steely Dan, is 65 years old today. Hey Donald — go ahead and retire already!

This might actually be my favorite Steely Dan song. It’s certainly one of their most archetypal and a bit of an anthem for the band. The lyrics relate the tale of (what else?) a broken down hipster who has fallen on hard times. This was a theme that would predominate in the band’s work, especially on the early releases. There are some real lyrical gems in here. “Drink Scotch whiskey all night long / And die behind the wheel” and “They got a name for the winners in the world / I want a name when I lost” stand out.

With regard to the latter, Walter Becker once asked Fagen “You mean it’s like, they call these¬†cracker¬†assholes this grandiose name like the Crimson Tide, and I’m this loser, so they call me this other grandiose name, Deacon Blues?” This became one of the most told tales in all of Danfan lore.

The musical elements are typical to a point bordering on self-parody. A light, jazzy arrangement complete with smooth sax solo dominates the track. Soulful lady backup singers coo “Deacon Bluuuuuuuues” every now and again. There’s not a rough or intense part of the entire song; It’s about as smooth as floating to sleep in a whiskey coma after a long night of mellow partying.

Happy birthday, Donald Fagen. Thanks for 40 years of killer tracks like this one.

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