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Al Green's White Leather Jacket With Embroidery
Photo by Design Photography
Collection of Al Green

  Steely Dan
Essential Recordings
Rikki Don't Lose That Number

Deacon Blues

Do It Again



Two Against Nature

Reelin' in the Years

My Old School

Kid Charlemagne


Recommended Reading

“Steely Dan: Ironic Distance and Tasty Licks.”
by Ruhlmann, William. Goldmine (January 22, 1993): 10-20+.

Citizen Steely Dan 1972-1980. MCA, 1993
by Steely Dan. (Note: The booklet included with this box set contains biographical and discographical information.)

Steely Dan: Reelin’ in the Years
by Sweet, Brian. London: Omnibus Press, 2000.

The Complete Guide to the Music of Steely Dan
by Sweet, Brian. London: Omnibus Press, 1998.


2006 inductees | search all inductees | full inductee list

  Steely Dan

Inductees: Walter Becker (bass, guitar; born February 20, 1950) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, vocals; born January 10, 1948)

Steely Dan has been more of a conceptual framework for inventive music-making than a typical rock band. Spearheaded by a pair of resourceful musical auteurs – Donald Fagen and Walter Becker - they have done nothing by the books since launching Steely Dan in 1972. The band's very name is a scatological reference from a novel by Beat Generation anti-hero William Burroughs. Though Steely Dan recorded prolifically for much of the Seventies, they toured for only a brief spell early in that decade, deciding they much preferred the studio to the road. This allowed them to craft a wry, nuanced and hyper-literate series of albums - seven in all, released from 1972 to 1980 - that are highly regarded by connoisseurs of pop hooks, jazz harmony and desiccating wit.

Beneath the highly polished surface of Steely Dan's music, astute listeners could hear a visceral love of and identification with the very soul of jazz. Fagen and Becker referenced Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and Horace Silver at least as much as any rock-oriented source material. Even so, there was a certain accessible quality to songs like "Reelin’ in the Years," "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" that allowed Steely Dan to connect with rock fans, especially those who were college-aged and –educated.

Co-founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met in 1967 while attending Bard College in upstate New York. After serving as touring musicians with Jay and the Americans and trying their hand as staff songwriters, they formed Steely Dan in Los Angeles as an outlet for a growing backlog of offbeat, original material that no one else seemed inclined to record. In the beginning, Steely Dan was an actual band with a lineup of Fagen, Becker, guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, and drummer Jim Hodder. This configuration cut the albums Can't Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic. Though Dias remained on board through 1977's Aja, Steely Dan were almost completely Fagen and Becker's fiefdom by the time of Katy Lied, their fourth album.

On record, the duo recruited the cream of L.A.'s jazz-pop studio scene, including Michael McDonald, Victor Feldman, Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, and jazz stalwarts like David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, Larry Carlton, Chuck Rainey, Bernard Purdie, Phil Woods and Wayne Shorter. Producer-engineer Gary Katz, who worked on every album through 1980’s Gaucho, was a vital member of the Steely Dan brain trust whose input was critical to the perfectionist, audiophile quality of the group’s recordings. The A-list musicians provided a glossy top coat to Steely Dan's agreeably sleek music - an ironic vehicle for their cutting, urbane and often black-humored lyrics.

The group also had a serious side, too, that’s often been overlooked. "Deacon Blues" (from Aja) presented a moving portrait of a down-at-the-heels jazzman, "Kid Charlemagne" nervously surveyed a drug dealer's netherworld, and there was much to suggest that Fagen and Becker weren't just mocking the decadent affectations of the Seventies - though no one did that very thing better than they. Steely Dan hit a commercial and artistic peak in the late Seventies. The hugely popular Aja, released in the fall of 1977, had nothing to do with any musical currents that were popular at the time, but its jazz-inflected lushness and inscrutable intelligence appealed to listeners across the spectrum. Aja, which soared to #3, was soon certified platinum – it was, in fact, one of the first albums to receive this newly created award, which recognized sales of one million copies. Within a year of its release, Steely Dan – whose musical sophistication and sardonic outlook made them unlikely candidates for Top Forty success – charted four hit singles: “Peg,” “Deacon Blues, “FM” and “Josie.” Rolling Stone dubbed them “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.”

Steely Dan’s long-delayed seventh album, Gaucho, appeared in 1980. A year later, they announced they were breaking up. Over the next two decades, relatively little new music surfaced from either of them. Fagen released a solo album, The Nightfly, in 1982, but would not be heard again until 1993, when his ambitious Kamakiriad – produced by Becker, and representing the duo’s first real collaboration since Gaucho – was released. That same year, they reincarnated Steely Dan as something it had rarely been in its previous lifetime: a touring entity. Fagen and Becker led the “All New Steely Dan Orchestra ‘93” on a national tour. A comprehensive box set, Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980, was released late in the year. Walter Becker issued his one and only solo album, 11 Tracks of Whack, in 1994. Steely Dan hit the road again with the “Citizen Steely Dan Orchestra ’94.” Highlights from the two tours were culled for Alive in America, a single CD released in 1995.

In February 2000, Steely Dan released Two Against Nature, their first album of all-new material in two decades. Later that year, Fagen and Becker compiled and annotated a two-CD best-of, Show Biz Kids: The Steely Dan Story. In 2001, Two Against Nature won a Grammy for Best Album and Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was an improbably successful year for a band that had been largely dormant for the previous 20. Chalk up one more ironic conquest for the unpredictable Steely Dan.

Inductee Timeline

January 10, 1948
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan is born.

February 20, 1950
Walter Becker of Steely Dan is born.

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, cofounders of Steely Dan, meet as students at Bard College in upstate New York. Fagen will graduate in 1969 with a degree in English Literature, while Becker will drop out.

November 6, 1971
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are hired as staff songwriters at ABC-Dunhill Records in Los Angeles.

April 6, 1972
Steely Dan coalesces around the core of keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bass player Walter Becker. The other members of the original group are guitarists Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder, and vocalist David Palmer.

October 6, 1972
Steely Dan's debut album, 'Can't Buy a Thrill,' is released. It hangs on the charts for a year, peaking at #17 and launching two hit singles: "Do It Again" (#6) and "Reelin' in the Years" (#17).

July 6, 1973
'Countdown to Ecstasy,' Steely Dan's second album, is released. It contains several of their most popular songs, including "Bodhisattva" and "My Old School."

April 7, 1974
Steely Dan's biggest hit single, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," is released. It rises to #4 and pulls the album from which it came, 'Pretzel Logic,' up to #8 on the album charts.

July 4, 1974
Steely Dan perform at the Santa Monica Center. Guitarist Jeff Baxter thereupon leaves to join the Doobie Brothers and drummer Jim Hodder quits as well. Following this tour, the group does not perform again under the Steely Dan rubric until 1993.

March 9, 1975
Steely Dan's fourth album, 'Katy Lied,' is released. Founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are backed by a who's who of rock and jazz personnel.

October 6, 1977
'Aja,' Steely Dan's most accomplished and popular album to date, is released. It is the group's first to be certified platinum (one million copies sold), and it reaches #3 on the album chart. It also wins Steely Dan a Grammy for "Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording."

November 14, 1980
'Gaucho,' Steely Dan's seventh album – and last new music that will usher from them for 20 years – is released. It yields a Top Ten single, "Hey Nineteen."

November 6, 1993
The box set 'Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980, 'containing all seven Steely Dan albums (plus several non-album tracks), is released. It is the culmination of a year that also saw the release of cofounder Donald Fagen's 'Kamakiriad' and the re-formed Steely Dan's first tour since 1974.

Steely Dan's 'Alive in America,' recorded on their 1993 and 1994 "reunion" tours, is released.

February 29, 2000
'Two Against Nature,' Steely Dan's first studio album since 1980, is released.

March 19, 2001
Steely Dan is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the sixteenth annual induction dinner. Moby is their presenter.

Walter Becker of Steely Dan solicits bids for his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction trophy via the band's website.

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