The cover of the "Kid Charlemagne" single features Fagen (top) and Becker (bottom)
|Single by Steely Dan|
|from the album The Royal Scam|
|Genre||Funk rock, pop rock, jazz fusion, jazz rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Walter Becker, Donald Fagen|
|Steely Dan singles chronology|
"Kid Charlemagne" is a song by the rock group Steely Dan, which was released as a single from their 1976 album The Royal Scam and reached number 82 in the Billboard charts. It is a fusion of a funk rhythm and jazz harmonies with rock and roll instrumentals and lyrical style. The guitar solo by jazz fusion guitarist Larry Carlton was ranked #80 in the list of the 100 greatest guitar songs by Rolling Stone, stating "In the late seventies, Steely Dan made records by pushing a revolving crew of monster session dudes through take after take, which yielded endless jaw-dropping guitar solos. Larry Carlton's multi-sectioned, cosmic-jazz lead in this cut may be the best of all: It's so complex it's a song in its own right."
The lyrics tell the story of the rise and fall of a drug dealer in the context of the psychedelic scene of the 1960s on the West Coast. Specifically, writers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have stated that the lyrics were loosely inspired by the exploits of the San Francisco-based LSD chemist Owsley Stanley — although it conflates the core story with numerous other images of the Sixties:
Every A-frame had your number on the wall
The first two lines draw on the fact that Owsley's acid was famed for its purity, and the third line is likely a reference to the famous psychedelic bus named Further, which was used by the Merry Pranksters, who were supplied their LSD by Owsley. A-frame homes also increased in popularity during the 1960s due to the availability of low-cost prefabricated kits that could be assembled by unskilled laborers in a matter of days.
- Donald Fagen – lead vocals, organ
- Larry Carlton – lead guitar
- Walter Becker – rhythm guitar
- Don Grolnick – Fender Rhodes electric piano
- Paul Griffin – Hohner Clavinet
- Chuck Rainey – bass
- Bernard Purdie – drums
- Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Venetta Fields, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews – background vocals
- Kanye West sampled the song on "Champion", from his 2007 album Graduation. Becker and Fagen initially refused West's request to use the song. They changed their mind after receiving a personal letter from West explaining the song's importance. 
- Steely Dan USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
- ""The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs"". Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved 2017-05-05.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- Complete transcript of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in a BBC-Online Chat Archived 2009-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, March 4, 2000
- Greenfield, Robert (2011-03-14). "Owsley Stanley: The King of LSD". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-05-08.
- Pershan, Caleb (2015-07-20). "'Kid Charlemagne': A Close Reading Of Steely Dan's Ode To Haight Street's LSD King". SFist. Archived from the original on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2017-08-13.
- Scarano, Ross (16 October 2012). "Interview: Steely Dan's Donald Fagen Talks New Album, Reclaiming the Ghetto, and Getting a Letter From Kanye". complex.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017.