Wednesday, September 09, 2015

How Steely Dan Created ‘Deacon Blues’

From the Wall Street Journal:

As midlife-crisis songs go, Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” ranks among the most melodic and existential. Recorded for the album “Aja” in 1977, the song details the bored existence of a ground-down suburbanite and his romantic fantasy of life as a jazz saxophonist.

Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1976, “Deacon Blues” was released in 1977 on Steely Dan’s album “Aja,” which in the fall reached No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart, where it remained for seven consecutive weeks. The song also was a hit single in early 1978.

More here.

This is one of my all time favorite songs. I still remember first hearing it when I was in sixth or seventh grade: it was a lot like when I first heard the Doors, haunting, deeply moving, mysterious, full of loss and possibility. And jazz. This song, probably more than anything else, pushed me to explore jazz; for that alone, Steely Dan deserves my undying gratitude.

But this is also one of those works of art that stays meaningful and relevant over the years. As I've aged, and come to understand that some of my own dreams will not be realized, I've found great comfort in having "a name when I lose." Loss and failure become romantic and empowering with this song. These are essential human states, after all, and "Deacon Blues" celebrates them well. Hell, I've even listened to this song to soothe the ache of watching the Alabama Crimson Tide defeat first my Texas Longhorns and then my LSU Tigers in back to back national championships. A tonic for whatever ails you.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in Steely Dan's weird, jazzy, beat poet world. Come to find out, decades later, that's what I've been doing the whole time, whether I knew it or not.