Music Friday Flashback: Steely Dan Crosses a Diamond With a Pearl in the 1976 Classic Hit, ‘Kid Charlemagne’

June 20th, 2014

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics.

In today’s featured song, Steely Dan lead singer Donald Fagan uses precious gems as metaphors for "perfection" in his classic 1976 hit, “Kid Charlemagne.”

In the song inspired by the legend of “underground” chemist Owsley Stanley III, Fagan sings, “Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl / You turned it on the world / That's when you turned the world around.”

In this case, crossing a diamond with a pearl symbolizes how Stanley perfected the recipe for the highest-quality LSD available in San Francisco in the 1960s. A subsequent line explains, “On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene / But yours was kitchen clean.”

“Kid Charlemagne,” which was released as a single from Steely Dan’s fifth album, The Royal Scam, met with modest success in 1976 as it reached #82 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. But, as Steely Dan’s popularity bloomed in the late 1970s, the song grew in popularity and became a concert staple, despite its cryptic drug references.

Blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B and pop, Steely Dan continues to tour in its fifth decade. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.

Steely Dan’s "Jamalot Ever After" 53-show tour starts July 2 in Portland, Ore., and ends at Baltimore's Pier Six Pavilion on September 17.

We hope you enjoy the video of Fagan and the rest of Steely Dan performing "Kid Charlemagne." The lyrics are below if you’d like to sing along:

“Kid Charlemagne”
Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Performed by Steely Dan.

While the music played you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
That's when you turned the world around
Did you feel like Jesus?
Did you realize
That you were a champion in their eyes?

On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home
Every A-frame had your number on the wall
You must have had it all
You'd go to L.A. on a dare
And you'd go it alone
Could you live forever?
Could you see the day?
Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away?

Get along, get along Kid Charlemagne
Get along Kid Charlemagne

Now your patrons have all left you in the red
Your low-rent friends are dead
This life can be very strange
All those dayglow freaks who used to paint the face
They've joined the human race
Some things will never change
Son you were mistaken
You are obsolete
Look at all the white men on the street


Clean this mess up else we'll all end up in jail
Those test tubes and the scale
Just get them all out of here
Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there's gas in the car
I think the people down the hall
Know who you are
Careful what you carry
'Cause the man is wise
You are still an outlaw in their eyes


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