Mystery solved: ‘Deacon Blues’

It wasn't us they were singing about!

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“I’ll learn to work the saxophone
I play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whiskey all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
And I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues”

On Sept. 11, 2015 The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Anatomy of a Song: ‘Deacon Blues’.”

It included an interview with the song’s writers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. “Deacon Blues” appeared on Steely Dan’s 1977 “Aja” album. Excerpted from the interview:

Fagen: “Walter and I wrote ‘Deacon Blues’ in Malibu, Calif., when we lived out there. Walter would come over to my place and we’d sit at the piano. I had an idea for a chorus: 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.”

Becker: “Donald had a house that sat on top of a sand dune with a small room with a piano. From the window, you could see the Pacific in between the other houses. ‘Crimson Tide’ didn’t mean anything to us except the exaggerated grandiosity that’s bestowed on winners. ‘Deacon Blues’ was the equivalent for a loser in our song.”

Fagen: When Walter came over, we started on the music, then started filling in more lyrics to fit the story. At that time, there had been a lineman with the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers, Deacon Jones. We weren’t serious football fans, but Deacon Jones’s name was in the news a lot in the 1960s and 1970s, and we liked how it sounded. It also had two syllables, which was convenient, like ‘Crimson.’ The name had nothing to do with Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons or any other team with a losing record. The only Deacon I was familiar with in football at the time was Deacon Jones.”

(Editor’s note: What Deacon would want to be blue, anyway?)

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