Segment 24

The music in the Deep Tracks is a lot like America. It’s a melting pot, a gumbo, a hybrid, a mixed breed, a mutt. And all the better for it. Each generation of musicians grows up listening to the previous generation, some were influenced by the blues artists who preceded them, others were influenced by country, folk, jazz, or a combination of them all. Well, today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl takes a look at the influence of one particular jazz composition you may not know on two songs you do: Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” The great pianist and composer Horace Silver wrote “Song For My Father” in 1963. It’s the title track to an album that was one of hard bop’s most famous recording dates. It’s a Bossa Nova in F minor, about seven minutes long, and it has six false endings, though we only have time to use a couple of them. We’ll break the song into three parts and we’ll rearrange them for maximum edification.

Steely Dan integrated jazz forms into their music more consistently than perhaps any other group in the Deep Tracks. It’s well known that Becker and Fagen took the bass line from “Song For My Father” as the starting point for “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” But what’s less well known is that Stevie Wonder took the descending horn line from “Song For My Father” and used it for the chorus of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” Elsewhere in the set, a guy who incorporated jazz into his songs every bit as well as Steely Dan, Van the Man. We’ll hear his cover of Cannonball Adderly’s “Sack o’ Woe.” And before that, we’ll hear the Electrifying Eddie Harris along with Les McCann doing their famous live take of “Compared to What,” a soul jazz pop monster recorded live in 1969. But first, that Horace Silver track. Listen to the bass line for Steely Dan, and the horns for Stevie Wonder. From the Way Back Studios, here’s “Song For My Father.”

Horace Silver Song For My Father (part 1)
Stevie Wonder Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
Horace Silver Song For My Father (part 3)
Steely Dan Ricki Don’t Lose That Number
Les McCann & Eddie Harris Compared to What?
Van Morrison Sack o’ Woe
Horace Silver Song For My Father (part 2)

Wrapping up that jazzy little set, an excerpt from Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father.” At the top of the set we heard the opening minute and a half of the song to highlight its influence on Stevie Wonder as he composed “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” where Stevie’s chorus mimics that descending horn line from Silver’s composition. In the middle of the set, we cut to the last minute or so of “Song For My Father” to show exactly how Steely Dan appropriated the bass line from the song to create their biggest hit, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Proving the old adage that good writers borrow but great writers steal. By the way, the albums Pretzel Logic and Innervisions both made the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.

Following the Steely Dan, we heard the soul jazz masterpiece “Compared to What.” That was Les McCann and the Electrifying Eddie Harris recorded live in 1969. Funny how those lyrics seem so contemporary. “The President, he’s got his war. Folks don’t know just what it’s for. Nobody gives us rhyme or reason. Have one doubt, they call it treason.” We came out of that bit of the truth into Van Morrison’s cover of Cannonball Adderley’s “Sack o’ Woe.” Taken from the album How Long Has This Been Going On which was recorded live (but without an audience) at the famous London jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s. Well, to paraphrase Stevie Wonder, Everybody needs a change, a chance to check out the new, but you’re the only one who sees, the changes in the Way Back Studios. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. If you’ve got any questions, comments, or suggestions, drop by my website and send me an email. Meanwhile, I’ll be here on the dusty fringes of Los Angeles, working on a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl for your listening pleasure, right here in the Deep Tracks.

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