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Steely Dan - "Haitian Divorce"
on December 3, 2017 | Last updated December 3, 2017
Steely DanHaitian Divorce
Release Type: User Audio Type: Single-track Reductions: Yes (Authored) Pitched Vocals: Yes Vocals Gender: Male (3)
You can go to Vegas for a quickie marriage, but what do you do if you want a quickie divorce? In the early '70s, Haiti made it easy, allowing foreigners to divorce with hardly any restriction; the big sell was that only one member of the married party had to be present and request it.
For Haiti, this was a tourism ploy, as travel agents would send Americans looking for a quick and easy divorce to the island, where they would often spend some time on a resort. In many cases, these divorces were requested so that the person could immediately get remarried - a service Haiti also provided. So it was not uncommon for a married man to show up in Haiti with his mistress, get a divorce, and marry the new girl all in the course of a weekend.
Donald Fagan talked about the Haitian Divorce in a 1976 interview with Sounds. Said Fagen: "It's a fierce and terrible ritual. I'll tell you that. You wouldn't want your sister to have a Haitian divorce, believe me. It was the quick divorce, without too much red tape. If you can say 'incompatibility of character' in french, you're as good as gold. But we added a few elements to the ceremony itself."
In this song, it's the woman who goes to Haiti for her divorce. She has some fun while she is there, and presumably hooks up with a local - their sex scene is implied in cinematic terms in the lines:
Now we dolly back
Now we fade to black
Steely Dan used a talkbox on this track, which is the same processor Black Sabbath used on "Iron Man" to create the robotic sounds. In "Haitian Divorce," hired hand Dean Parks played the guitar, Walter Becker processed it though a talkbox to his specifications.
The Royal Scam was released in May 1976. The album sold well in the U.S.A. though without the strength of a hit single. "Haitian Divorce" (Top 20) drove sales in the UK, becoming Steely Dan's first major hit in that country.