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Steely Dan is an American jazz rock band founded by core members Walter Becker (guitars, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals) in 1972. Blending elements of jazz, R&B, traditional pop, and sophisticated studio production with ironic and cryptic lyrics, the band enjoyed critical and commercial success starting from the early 1970s until breaking up in 1981. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies". Steely Dan reunited in 1993 and has toured steadily ever since. Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, leaving Fagen as the only official member.
Recorded with a revolving cast of session musicians, Steely Dan's music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies. Becker and Fagen are whimsical, often sarcastic lyricists, having written "cerebral, wry and eccentric" songs about recreational drugs, love affairs, gambling, and crime. The pair is also known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio: Over the year they took to record Gaucho (1980), an album of just seven songs, Becker and Fagen hired at least 42 studio musicians and 11 engineers.
Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974 before retiring from live performances, becoming a studio-only band. After the group disbanded in 1981, Becker and Fagen were less active throughout most of the next decade, though a cult following remained devoted to the group. Since reuniting in 1993 Steely Dan has released two albums of new material, the first of which, Two Against Nature, earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.
VH1 listed Steely Dan as one of the 100 greatest musical artists of all time.
Last Updated: September 4, 2017