Rick Beato Breaks Down Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ to See If It Really Needs More Cowbell

Musician and music essayist Rick Beato took a detailed musical look at Blue Öyster Cult‘s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, mostly to see if the iconic song really did need “More Cowbell”.

In this episode I discuss the song behind Music’s Greatest Meme from the “More Cowbell’ comedy sketch featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell.

Beato also looked at the creative chord arrangement within the song’s distinctive riff.

Now what’s interesting about the riff is that when i first learned it it’s not even a full A minor chord he’s playing, he’s playing a power chord. Then he goes to open G, which leads you into the G Major. Then there goes this F6 chord which really has a haunting sound, which i think really creates the whole mood of that.

Lead guitarist and song composer Buck Dharma joined Beato to talk about how he wrote the song.

The riff just sort of came unbidden, you know. I had just gotten a TEAC 3340S, my first multi-track machine that was one of the first songs I wrote on it, probably the first completed song. …I wrote it because I’d been diagnosed with a heart condition and was feeling particularly mortal. Turns out you know, it wasn’t that big a deal for me. You know medication controls it, but it’s definitely on my mind so i wrote a love song about transcendent love.

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