Back in my day when we used to walk five miles to the bus stop, uphill both ways, Christopher Cross dominated the radio with the heyday of yacht rock. “Sailin’” is the genre’s national anthem, but “Ride Like The Wind” is its masterpiece.
And in no pop song is the back-up vocal so famous as to be parodied by SCTV. Try to sing this tune without emulating Michael McDonald’s “such a long way to go.” It’s impossible. Watch the clip below:
But what I want to do today is explain how you can play this classic on your home piano today. If you have some piano basics, it’s easy. First, check out my version on YouTube.
Here’s what I’m doing.
The verse revolves around Cm, Bb and Ab. The intro is back-and-forth between C and Bb before going to Ab, in the left hand. The little riff to open is an Eb and a Bb chord in your right hand. Eb-Bb, Eb-Bb, and you do that going from C to Bb twice and then to Ab, again in your left hand.
If you’ll watch my video as you read this, it might help – but the verse isn’t fancy. It’s Cm to Bb to Ab. Sure, you might want to pick out the melody, but you might not. You might be accompanying a singer. The verse is just that easy: Cm to Bb to Ab.
The pre-chorus — that part with the Michael McDonald’s lick — is an AbMaj9 to a Gm. What is an AbMaj9? Ab, C, Eb, G, Bb — but you’re going to phrase it with the Ab in the bass line and Bb,C, Eb, G. The Gm will be a Bb-D-F with the G in the bass line.
Now let’s talk that big chorus, the big hook, the “doo doo doodoo, doodoo, doodoo” part. I didn’t buy the sheet music, so I can’t guarantee perfection, but I am pretty sure this will help you fake it. What I’m most confident of is that you’re going to want to get familiar with Cm9. That chord is C, Eb, G, Bb, D, and in this song, it will be presented with the C in the bass line and the Bb-D-Eb-G in the right hand.
The hook goes Cm9 x4, Dm9, Cm9 // Cm9 x4, EbMaj7, Dm9 // Cm9 x4, Dm9, EbMaj7 // Cm9, BbMaj9, Eb/G, F for the first go-round. I’m not 1,000 percent sure about that last pass — the Cm9, BbMaj9, Eb/G, F part, although I’m certain of the first half of it.
The second time through the hook finalizes with Cm9, Dm9, EbMaj7, F/G.
And let’s talk about that last part.
First, the last Cm9 will be presented with the C in the bass line (your left hand), and a D, Eb, G, Bb in the right. For that last part, run up your bass line — C, D, Eb-F-F#-G, which leads into the “Accused and tried, and told to hang” verse. Bad ass!
Rinse and repeat. That’s all you need to know how to play “Ride Like The Wind!” If you’d like to get uber precise, I’d encourage you to buy the sheet music.