How the Walter Becker Obits Got Steely Dan All Wrong

Sad to see that Walter Becker, the great guitarist and songwriting partner of Donald Fagen in the redoubtable Steely Dan, died last week at the age of 67.

Sadder yet, most obituaries wrote off the Becker/Fagen lyrics as (in the words of New York Times music critic Jon Pareles) “far from straightforward.”

Or, as Becker’s Associated Press obit characterized them, “subversive and literary lyrics that neither expected many fans to understand — and which they themselves sometimes claimed to not understand.”


Tell us you don’t get the heartachey narrative of Any Major Dude from Pretzel Logic.



Or the cinematic train wreck of Haitian Divorce from The Royal Scam.



Or the suicide-by-cop plea in Don’t Take Me Alive from the same album.



Or the Trumpian-before-its-time Chain Lightning from Katy Lied.



Sure – maybe Your Gold Teeth from Countdown to Ecstasy is a bit of a headscratcher, but over all, Steely Dan was far from “far from straightforward.”

Quite the opposite. In so many songs, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were right on target.

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