Steely Dan Sunday, “Little Kawai” (1994)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

Like most rock stars of the 1970s, Walter Becker had lived the whole sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle during that decade. Since many of the songs the make up 11 Tracks of Whack either refer to that lifestyle or its tragic aftermath, it’s easy to forget that the Walter Becker of the time he wrote and/or recorded these songs was in a much different place in his life. Having moved to Maui and cleaned up shortly after Gaucho, Becker had by the ’90s settled into domestic bliss, with a wife and a little boy, Kawai.

There are examples everywhere of musicians of every stripe writing a song about his (or her) young child, and like every new parent, they’re so proud and joyful they can’t help but to use their unique communication tool to share their experience with the world. John Lennon did that with “Beautiful Boy” for his first and only child with Yoko, to give one example. When news came of the Newtown massacre that a jazz musician’s daughter was one of the victims, I began to wonder if he had penned a song dedicated to her during her brief time on earth, and, sure enough…

Becker was no exception to basking in the glow of being a new dad, and his “Little Kawai” is a real charmer. Tacked on to the back of 11 Tracks, it’s actually the twelfth track, meaning there’s nothing whack about it. It’s a gentle country ditty about Walter’s unconditional love for his little rugrat who seemed to get into trouble the way all little boys do, with Becker’s ukelele giving it a mild Hawaiian tinge. Full of light humour and almost a lullaby, the song it most reminds me of is James Taylor’s ode to his newborn nephew, “Sweet Baby James.” I’m not saying it’s as good as JT’s song, but the same sort of sentiment is hard to miss all the same, and on that sentimental note, Becker’s wild, unexpected and generally satisfying first solo record comes to a close.

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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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