Steely Dan Sunday, "Gaucho" (1980)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Becker and Fagen discovered just how true that was when their little hat tip to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett turned nasty and expensive.

You see, Becker and Fagen had lifted the gospel vamp that forms the basis for “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” (from Belonging, 1974) and made it their instrumental intro section for their title song “Gaucho,” repeating it a couple of other times on the song. Any notion that this similarity of that vamp between the two songs was pure coincidence were laid to rest when Fagen publically admitted borrowing from Jarrett’s song, but it was intended as a tribute. Jarrett didn’t see things that way, he saw theft, and went after the pair, winning a $1 million settlement in exchange for Becker and Fagen retaining their songwriting credits.

Since there was no question about intent, the only remaining question is, was there enough of Jarrett’s song in “Gaucho” to merit an actual violation for copywright infringement? We’ve seen since the time of “Gaucho” how sampling other people’s music — including Steely Dan’s own songs — have become a regular feature in hip hop and other forms of contemporary music. It’s probably fair to state that most of these artists whose works have been sampled haven’t been compensated for it. These days, even an entire Eagles song can get lifted without any offer of due consideration [see “Frank Ocean responds to possible sampling suit by Eagles’ Don Henley: ‘Ain’t this guy rich as f**k?’”].

There are some pretty flagrant instances of pilfering someone elses song and not giving credit, but oftentimes I’m not sure where you draw the line. I mean, it never once occurred to me that George Harrison plagarised the Chiffons but some court said he did, so that tells you how much I know about these things. Thus, I pose the question to you, Dear Reader. Listen to Steely Dan’s “Guacho” and then “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” below and make your call in the comments section below:

“Gaucho,” by Steely Dan:

“Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” by Keith Jarrett:

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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