Steely Dan’s eccentric lyrics were known to often portray true-life accounts of the world that surrounded the west coast hippie in the 60’s and 70’s. Witty and often sarcastic song themes touched on love, affairs, crime, and of course drugs. “Kid Charlemagne”, the opening track of their fifth album The Royal Scam, was loosely based on one of the most intriguing real life characters of this entire era; the king of psychedelics Owsley Stanley. One of the culturally influential characters that American history class tends to leave out. Between 1965 and 1967 Stanley produced and distributed over 1.25 million hits of LSD. His production of the drug alone served as a major catalyst of the hippie movement, and eventually the biggest LSD “party” in history during the summer of 1967 in San Francisco, better known as the Summer of Love. Trippy man. Stanley’s story reads like a true legend, as the day before LSD became illegal in California, the Los Angeles Times headline about his life read “LSD Millionaire”. Even ten years after the height of his popularity, he still was an inspiration to a writer’s mind.
Here’s a argument against people that like to say Kanye only samples soul music. His record “Champion” off his Graduation album, starts with the 0:34 mark of “Kid Charlemagne”. Yeezy lets that chop run out as it says “Did you realize. That you were a champion, in their eyes”, with “eyes” landing on the down beat. He cuts the sample abruptly at the 0:40 mark of the Steely Dan record, and triggers it again at the end of the bar on “their eyes”. If you listen beyond where Kanye ended his chop, the record takes on a whole different feel as the chords change, so by using this specific piece of the sample he was able to capture the exact feel he wanted for his record. From Owsley Stanley to Kanye West…. it’s an American Champion thing.