"Kings" as written by Walter Carl Becker and Donald Jay Fagen....
Now they lay his body down
Sad old men who run this town
I still recall the way
He led the charge and saved the day
Blue blood and rain
I can hear the bugle playin'

[Chorus:]
We seen the last of Good King Richard
Ring out the past his name lives on
Roll out the bones and raise up your pitcher
Raise up your glass to Good King John

While he plundered far and wide
All his starving children cried
And though we sung his fame
We all went hungry just the same
He meant to shine
To the end of the line

[Chorus:]
We seen the last of Good King Richard
Ring out the past his name lives on
Roll out the bones and raise up your pitcher
Raise up your glass to Good King John


Lyrics submitted by ponchopunch

"Kings" as written by Walter Carl Becker Donald Jay Fagen

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Kings song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentI don't think Richard and John refer to Kennedy and Nixon. I think it's about how we immortalize the memory of our past leaders. History ignores their faults. King Richard is dead. A bunch of guys hang out in the pub/bar and toast the memory of his conquests. However, while he acquired great wealth for the nation, the common people didn't benefit. King John succeeds King Richard, and you can only expect more of the same.

    It seems to be the recurring theme of Can't Buy A Thrill: life is a grind and unjust to the point where it seems to be not worth living -- and don't you dare even think that ordinary people can change the way the world works. But since you're alive anyway, you may as well deal with it. Raise up your pitcher to the powers that be because they are the power and you have none. NONE!!!!
    ZinbobDanon August 15, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThe song is about Magna Carta. Richard the Lionhearted was a grand king of England who had total rule. He was succeeded by his younger brother John. John was weak and had to cave in to the English noblemen who wanted to share in the rule of the country. By asserting that the king had less than total rule over his country and all his subjects, Magna Carta became the initial basis for many prinicpals which are now part of what we consider to be basic human rights. Richard was a much more valiant king, but he ruled without regard for the common people. John was a terrible king, but his weakness made his government less despotic.
    smitty-atlon July 19, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't know... Nixon was before my time, but how many people really regard him as a good king?
    Stone Freeon January 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is definitely a reference to Nixon and Kennedy. Can't Buy a Thrill (the album from which this comes) came out in October 1972, just before the 72 Presidential Election. Though Nixon would go onto win this election in a landslide, his policies were still in question, especially among the Dan and people like them. The references to "good King Richard" as an able leader refer to the fact that he ended American involvement in Vietnam, a conflict that had been enraging the nation for a decade. Nevertheless, the Dan realized that at the same time, he was ignoring problems at home such as poverty and hunger, which is where the line "And though we sung his fame/ We all went hungry just the same" comes from. The speaker is harkening back to the glory days of what was really the last great president, John F Kennedy. Very cleverly written. One of the Dan's best.
    moodyzeppelin12on March 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song and Steely Dan are both great. It's about the english monarchs, like in Robin Hood. Could it also be about Nixon and Kennedy?
    pakaloloon May 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHow can there only be two comments for this song? I think this is one of the most musically satisfying songs on Can't Buy A Thrill - admittedly, less out-there than most of the Dan songs, but still a fantastic musical effort.
    Lukasaon May 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentInteresting, on the back of the sleeve of my copy of Can't Buy a Thrill, it actually says "no political significance" under Kings on the list, so it's definitely political.
    lambdaon December 29, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThis may sounds like a far fetched idea and I havent done much research into the whole history, but I grew up hearing this story in regards to this song: I have a friend whos dad had some shady times in the late 60's to mid 80's in Chicago where he had been involved in some illegal activity and by 1986 had left the city due to some pressure from feds, and other groups that would rather just have his head instead of his whole body. (That is the part I know for sure to be real) When it comes to this song, (I don't know what to quite believe) his father (John) knew Donald Fagen pretty well during his days in Chicago, and during the early 70's there was a shift in power within this activity to his father(John) and a man named Richard. Now according to him: Fagen never gave up any information at the time to the songs origin, but supposedly there is a large consensus on the meaning for the song from the groups involved in the illegal activities at that time..
    markscon February 01, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe line "He meant to shine" was probably taken from another Becker/Fagen collaboration called "I Mean to Shine"... which was recorded by, oddly, Barbra Streisand.
    kidcharlemagne1971on September 25, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was never sure if he wasn't referring to Chicago mayor Richard Daley.

    Does anyone know what the official story is?
    joe1020928on April 15, 2017   Link

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