The Old-World Twist to “Babylon Sisters”

The world’s most popular English-language song begins with a preamble that no one sings anymore:

So today is your birthday
That is what I’ve been told
What a wonderful birthday
You are one more year old
On your cake, they’ll be candles
All shiny and new
And the whole world is wishing…

And then the familiar refrain begins

Happy Birthday to you…

The Tin Pan Alley tradition of including this introductory “verse” has gone the way of the Victrola, but Steely Dan made clever use of it on Gaucho’s “Babylon Sisters.”

One of our resident Dan-o-philes, Anthony Robustelli, takes a deep dive into the topic in this video. Enjoy the trip…

-The CS Team

Photo: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons

PS. We originally published this back in 2018, and figured it was a great time to take another look.

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2 comments on “The Old-World Twist to “Babylon Sisters”

  1. Terrific insight, Anthony, thanks! I’ve never seen this addressed anywhere, but I’ve long suspected their inspiration for Babylon (including the intro) was this fairly obscure Eddie Harris tune. Hoping one day Mr. Fagen will say I’m right :).

  2. so helpful to hear this explanation of the intro and it’s connection to Tin Pan Alley — and the beginning of the verse. I think I hear a similar approach in the song “Florida Room” from one of Fagen’s solo albums.

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