The Chicken chords by Jaco Pastorius

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The Chicken | Chords


||: Bb7 (Em7b5 Dm7b5) :|| x4


| Bb7 (Em7b5 Dm7b5) | Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7 |
| Eb7 (Gm7b5 Dm7b5) | Eb7 | D7 | G7 |
| C7 | C7 | C7 | Bb minor pentatonic riff |

The Chicken’s chords and substitution

To spice the chords up, you can add sliding m7b5 substitutions, just like T-Bone Walker did on Call It Stormy Monday and Papa Ain’t Salty, a few decades earlier, and B.B. King with his Paying The Cost To Be The Boss around the same time.

First, picture the dom7 chord you want to substitute, then start your m7b5 chord on the 3rd.

If it’s a Bb7, start on the D. This creates a dom9 extension.

For even more spice, start a tone above, on an Em7b5, then slide down to the Dm7b5. Putting all notes in relation to Bb, you’ve got yourself a Bb13b5 chord. All intervals played are as the diagram shows.


The Chicken is Jaco Pastorius’s signature song

Initially written by Pee Wee Ellis, The Chicken was first released as a James Brown B-side in 1969 to his hit Popcorn.

Since the release, several cover versions have been recorded. First, by saxophonist Dave Liebman in 1977, under the name Chicken Soup.

Most notably, Jaco Pastorius (the self-proclaimed best bass player in the world) recorded a live version in 1983. This particular recording became so popular it turned The Chicken into a jazz/funk/fusion standard.

Being a standard, you must be able to play, at least The Chicken’s chords, should the singer suddenly leave the stage and make the band play an instrumental.

The Chicken chords | Related pages

Five similar tunes

When you can play The Chicken's chords, try these five tunes from the song book.

Jaco Pastorius

The best bass player in the world, Jaco Pastorius started out with co-tutor Pat Matheny, releasing genre-defining albums in 1976.

His best-known tunes include The Chicken, Coyote, Bright Size Life, Birdland, and Donna Lee.

Jaco Pastorius on the web

Listen to Jaco Pastorius on Spotify.

Blues & Jazz

Blues & Jazz tunes

The foundation upon which popular music stands, Blues & Jazz tunes must be explored in depth by the serious guitar player.

Learn from the best by studying the greatest tunes of the genres. Study the iconic licks and melodies to grasp the language of these most important styles.