Steely Dan is an American rock lineup; its core members are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band’s popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven copies blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Rolling Stone has called them “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.”
The band’s material is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies played by Becker and Fagen along with a revolving cast of rock and pop studio musicians. Steely Dan’s “cerebral, wry and eccentric” lyrics, often filled with sharp sarcasm, touch upon such themes as drugs, love affairs, crime, and their true-to-life “contempt of west coast hippies.” The duo are well-known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, with one notable example being that Becker and Fagen used at least 42 different studio musicians, 11 engineers, and took over a year to album the tracks that resulted in 1980’s Gaucho — an record that contains only seven songs.
Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974, but in 1975 became a purely studio-based act. The late 1970s saw the lineup release a series of moderately popular singles and units. They disbanded in 1981, and throughout most of the next decade, Fagen and Becker remained largely inactive in the material world. while this time, the ensemble steadily built and maintained “a cult following.” In 1993, the group resumed playing live concerts; the early 21st century saw Steely Dan release two albums of new material, the first of which acquired a Grammy Award for record of the Year. They have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.