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Baker's Dozen

Creating A Songwriter: The 13 Albums That Made Thundercat
Rob Hakimian , April 14th, 2020 08:53

The virtuoso bassist takes Rob Hakimian through his musical life story with a baker's dozen that traces his trajectory from kid messing with his parents' records to the in-demand player that he is today. Photographs by The1Point8.


Donald Fagen - The Nightfly
Donald Fagen's solo album is another of those albums that kind of teaches you what it is to be a songwriter. I feel like Donald Fagen did Aja for the musicians, and The Nightfly is for the songwriter. It's very much a concentrated idea.

I remember getting turned on to this album by my home girl at the time; she was very much a muso. I would spend a lot of time listening to Steely Dan, and I didn't connect the dots – sometimes you don't connect them on your own. I had to be somewhere between 18 and 22 – somewhere in those years – she played me that album and I remember again, whenever I heard somebody create progressional music that are not normal choices, it always would perk my ears up, if it was somebody that would tastefully do something different or make some really outlandish choices, and Donald Fagen is the king of that.

The Nightfly is one of those albums that I can't live without, that is where I come from as a songwriter. That again definitively is what created the songwriter in me, as compared to the bass player. The choice of the covers, the jazz covers, they feel like they were his songs, the way that he's playing them on the album – he made them real special. It was like it told his actual story of who he was, and I feel like that's the way you're supposed to play standards, not the part where you just learn it because it's cool. I think that there's some emotional connection that Donald Fagen had to these songs that he chose, along with the ones that he wrote on this album, and you can feel it. You can feel it. You can feel it. The Nightfly is a definitive album for me.