From their early years as Beat-era artists to their 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Steely Dan founding members Walter Becker and Donald Fagan have made a unique impression in the annals of rock music.
Talented multi-instrumentalists, lyricists and composers, the duo came to fame in the 1970s, playing a unique blend of jazz, rock, blues and R&B and have since become one of the most well-respected and celebrated acts in rock, contributing a handful of classic albums including Aja, Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam and Katy Lied.
Known for their non-conventional approach to making music—they bucked several rock trends with their sophisticated compositions, complex time signatures and perfectionist tendencies—Becker and Fagan, while recording albums, would cycle through dozens of studio musicians looking for the sound that was just right. The 1980 Steely Dan release, Gaucho, took 42 studio musicians, 11 engineers and an entire year to complete.
While Steely Dan spent part of its early years touring, Becker and Fagan opted to abandon live concerts and focus on studio work for the remainder of the ‘70s. In the early ‘80s, the band disbanded and its founding members took a break from the music business.
In the early ‘90s, Becker and Fagan reunited and collaborated on studio recordings, performances and production projects. 2000 saw the release of Two Against Nature, the first album of new Steely Dan material in 20 years. The record was a surprise hit and earned the band four GRAMMY Awards, including Album of the Year. The sweep confirmed what Steely Dan fans had known all along: that Becker and Fagan were two of the treasures of rock and roll; a stylish and forward-thinking duo whose talents were undeniable.
Since then, Steely Dan has released a handful of well-received albums and played their music around the world. They’ve dubbed this year’s tour “Shuffle Diplomacy Twenty Eleven.”
Steely Dan performs on Tuesday, July 5 at the Mountain Winery.