Deacon Blues

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For the racehorse, see Deacon Blues (horse).
"Deacon Blues"
Single by Steely Dan
from the album Aja
B-side "Home at Last"
Released 1977
Format Single
Recorded 1977
Genre Jazz rock
Length 7:36
6:33 (7" version)
Label ABC
Writer(s) Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
Producer(s) Gary Katz
Steely Dan singles chronology
"Deacon Blues"
"FM (No Static At All)"
Aja track listing
"Deacon Blues"

"Deacon Blues" is a song written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1976 and recorded by their group Steely Dan on their 1977 album Aja.[1] It peaked at No.19 in the Billboard charts.[2]


The song was largely written at Fagen's house in Malibu and was prompted by his observation that "... if a college football team like the University of Alabama could have a grandiose name like the "Crimson Tide" the nerds and losers should be entitled to a grandiose name as well." [1] The song's protagonist has been described by Fagen as "autobiographical' in that it reflected the dreams of both Fagen and Becker about becoming jazz musicians while they were living in the suburbs. Characterized as a "loser" by Fagen, the song's subject was meant to reflect "... a broken dream of a broken man living a broken life."[1]

The name "Deacon" was influenced by Deacon Jones a professional football player who played for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.[1]


"Deacon Blues" was recorded at Village Recorders in West Los Angeles. Jazz guitarist Larry Carlton used Fagen's demos to transcribe the chords into a rhythm section which featured Carlton's guitar on the song's opening. Saxophonist Tom Scott wrote the horn arrangements for not only "Deacon Blues" but for all of the songs on Aja, a task that he completed in less than two weeks. After the song was recorded Becker and Fagen decided to add a saxophone solo and asked their producer, Gary Katz, to arrange for Pete Christlieb to record the solo. At the time, neither Becker nor Fagen knew Christlieb by name, only by his reputation as a musician on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Christlieb went to the studio and recorded the solo after taping the show one evening.

"They told me to play what I felt. Hey, I'm a jazz musician, that's what I do ... so I recorded my first solo ... we listened back and they said it was great. I recorded a second take and that's the one they used. I was gone in a half hour. The next thing I know I'm hearing myself in every airport bathroom in the world." [1]

Success and legacy[edit]

"Deacon Blues" was released on Steely Dan's 1977 album Aja which reached No.3 on Billboard's album chart, a position it held for seven consecutive weeks.[1] The song was the duo's fifth Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US, where it peaked at #19 in 1978. "Deacon Blues" remained in the Top 40 for eight weeks. [3] In a 1994 AOL chat interview with Becker, someone asked him about the inspiration for the song and he answered, "It was an outgrowth of a specific mood that pertained at a given time," and later added, "...I remember the night that we mixed that one thinking that it was really good and wanting to hear it over and over which is never the case."[4]

"As midlife-crisis songs go, Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues" ranks among the most melodic and existential." -- The Wall Street Journal[1]

"One thing we did right on "Deacon Blues" and all of our records: we never tried to accommodate the mass market. We worked for ourselves and still do." -- Donald Fagen[1]

The Scottish pop/rock band Deacon Blue are thought to have taken their name from this song. [5] William Gibson's book Mona Lisa Overdrive features a gang called the Deacon Blues[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Myers, Marc (September 11, 2015) "Anatomy of a Song" The Wall Street Journal, pages D-1 and D-6[1]
  2. ^ Steely Dan USA chart history, Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  4. ^ "AOL Chat". 1994-11-17. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  5. ^ "Deacon Blues". Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  6. ^ Classic Albums: Steely Dan – Aja (documentary, 2000)

External links[edit]