Founded by core members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Steely Dan has differentiated itself from other jazz bands with its nonconformity, complex musical structures, ironic lyrics, and the perfectionist tendencies of its members.
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It takes a very strong band to emerge from an over 10-year hiatus without a wrinkle. It takes an even stronger band to emerge from such a lengthy hiatus and achieve a level of success that is greater than the band has ever experienced.
So, what’s the secret behind Steely Dan’s success?
Perhaps it has something to do with the band’s revolving cast of musicians. Aside from Fagen and Becker, the band has kept each album fresh by recruiting new musicians. By changing the lineup of musicians, each album becomes a different, unique beast.
Maybe Steely Dan’s success has to do with the band’s fusion of various genres. Known for going against convention, Steely Dan has a particular talent at blending elements of rock, funk, pop, jazz, and R&B.
Still, the unflinching perfectionism of Fagen and Becker certainly has had a hand in the band’s popularity. The duo has sometimes asked the ensemble to record as many as forty takes for a single track!
And yet, the root of Steely Dan’s fame could be the clever lyrics that accompany the melodies. Steely Dan’s lyrics delve into common subjects such as crime, sex, and drugs, while maintaining an ironic perspective and a disturbing edge.
Regardless of the cause of their success, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have enjoyed a very prosperous career. This year, you can catch them as they embark on the Jamalot Ever After Tour, which will visit venues such as Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, and Montreal’s St. Denis Theatre.
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