“It’s Alright, Don…”: An Open Letter to Donald Fagen


Dear Mr. Fagen:

I read your somehow controversial interview in the current Rolling Stone, along with your rebuttal published on your Facebook page.  Frankly, I see no amends to be made.

The press seems to have latched onto two parts of your interview: your opinion of Bob Dylan’s current vocal abilities and the cranky Dukes of September tour diary from your upcoming book, Eminent Hipsters.  (Great title, by the way.)  Let’s start with ol’ Zimmy…


Apparently there is no room in the world for any perceived negative critique of Bob Dylan.  And you went there.  What people seem to forget is that you’ve stated on-the-record numerous times how you hated the sound of your own voice enough that you didn’t even want to sing on your own records.  In fact, Steely Dan had one different lead singer (the miscast David Palmer) and you attempted to recruit another to replace you (the could’ve-been-perfect Michael McDonald).  You’ve also made your fandom and respect of Dylan quite clear in past interviews as well.  (Dylan even named his 1997 “comeback” album Time Out Of Mind…whether that’s a nod back at Steely Dan or not is up for debate.)  And you’re both successful in the same business.  Therefore, you have every right to express an opinion on his voice and music not just as a fan, but as a musical peer.  I’ve never been a fan of his voice myself, and frankly it’s turned me off to a lot of his music.  His lyrics are brilliant, but they’re delivered via a package that I often can’t get with.  The last two sentences have likely been uttered by music fans about Steely Dan as well.  And how you described some of Dylan’s recent performances live and on record could well be applied to Steely Dan as well.  (Not by me.  I’ve yet to see a bad Dan show.  Your setlist, however…well that’s for another time.  As is my disappointment with the sound of Sunken Condos…)  But, that’s what subjectivity is all about.  Music “fans” need to deal with it.  And if they claim to never have had strong feelings and arguments about their favorite artists “slipping” a bit, or veering away from their usual style, well, they’re just lying.


Now, for the tour diary.  I’m not a big enough deal to have the privilege of reading the galleys of your yet-to-be-released memoir.  But, I can bet the majority of it, tour diary included, will have been written in a highly sarcastic/sardonic manner, possibly with some science-fiction thrown in, and maybe even some intentional fiction for the sake of levity.  Hmmm…that sounds like it could describe a lot of your song lyrics.  Which, to me, establishes a pattern by which virtually everything you write should not necessarily be taken at face value.  I doubt you hate your audience.  I’m sure there are nights you’d like to kill us, just for that one douchebag who constantly yells “Play ‘Peg’!” when you dare to hit us with a newer or deep catalog track.  And you’re entitled to bitch about it.  I’m positive, at times, you can be a “cranky old Jew”.  My family is full of them.  I myself will be one.  Wear that badge proudly.  It’s what made modern America!

I’ve said this before, to occasional eye-rolls, and I’ll put it in cyberprint here, Mr. Fagen:  Steely Dan are my Beatles.  Yet I still have the ability to be critical (see paragraph 3 above) and realize that what I say isn’t Gospel, nor is it intended to be.  It’s opinion.  Same as you voiced in that interview.  People need to take your old Yacht Rock sparring partner Don Henley’s advice and “Get over it…”

Warmest Regards,

Just another internet blogger…


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