Steely Dan

It's certainly impressive that Steely Dan masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have contributed such a staggering group of hit songs to the canon of modern music. One imagines that, even after civilization collapses, jazzy classics such as "Reelin' in the Years," "Bodhisattva," "Any Major Dude," and "Peg" will continue to be broadcast over the airwaves by automated playlist systems for centuries. And it would be fitting, because Becker and Fagen are arguably the only composers who rival the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn partnership in terms of quality (if not quantity). Certainly no one else in the pop world has scaled such heights of sheer majesty and sophistication. And for the most part, Becker and Fagen executed it so well that we've come to take their songwriting for granted.

Their undisputed radio dominance is even more impressive when you consider the darkness lurking in the music. Like some sort of Loch Ness creature slithering in the muddy depths and then glittering on the surface, despondency and sleaze are never far off when you're listening to Steely Dan. Sometimes, when Becker and Fagen are at their most overt, the hideous underbelly of the Los Angeles they called home in the Seventies stares you right in the face. At times, it sounds like they intended to paint a musical picture of a very shiny and polished hell — all the more reason to welcome them with open arms now that they've become fixtures of the summer concert season.


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