Song of the Week Revisited – The Finer Things, David Sanborn

I recently learned that alto sax player David Sanborn died on May 12th. In tribute to his artistry, I’d like to post a SotW essay I originally published on July 5th, 2008.

Sometimes a song immediately transports you back to a certain time and/or place.  When it comes on, you can remember every detail of some moment in your life when it was playing.

This week’s song is that way for me.  It is called “The Finer Things” and is credited to saxophonist David Sanborn.  But it was written by Donald Fagen and is performed by the usual Steely Dan cast of characters (that also included Sanborn), so it sounds to me more like The Dan than Sanborn’s usual smooth jazz.

It comes from the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s black comedy, The King of Comedy.  Incidentally, that soundtrack also includes out takes and special one off recordings by several other top notch artists such as Robbie Robertson, Van Morrison and Rickie Lee Jones. It’s worth picking up.

But let’s get back to my visceral connection to this song…  Back in the early 80s I spent a few 4ths of July at the beach in Ogunquit, ME.  At the end of one long day of tanning in the sun, it seemed like the whole beach decided they’d had enough at the same time.  As the exodus of beach goers packed up and started walking back to their cars, bars or motel rooms, I popped a cassette tape of this song into a boom box I was carrying.  The song (more or less an instrumental) seemed to perfectly capture the mood of the moment.  As we walked along, a couple of different strangers even tapped me on the shoulder to ask what was playing.

Every time I hear this song I “feel” the heat of the sun in my tanned skin.  I “see” the tired crowd of people dragging their coolers and beach chairs toward town.  I can “smell” the salt water and sun tan lotion.  (Remember Bumble?  Debbie?)

Obviously, this song won’t have the same meaning for you, but if you like Steely Dan (and who doesn’t?) I know you’ll enjoy this selection.

Until next week.

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