Perfectionists to the bone, Steely Dan reigned the music charts during the '70s. They were known to collaborate with the best artists of the time. Making a list of the 10 best Steely Dan songs of all time is far from easy. Nevertheless, here are the best of the lot.
Did You Know?
The song ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’, is a memoir of an incident that took place in Donald Fagen’s life. He met Rikki Ducornet at a college party; and even though she was married and pregnant at the time, he gave her his number. She became his muse, and inspired the lyrics of this song.
At the peak of career, they released an album almost every year, starting with their first record ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’ in 1972, ‘Countdown to Ecstasy’ in 1973, ‘Pretzel Logic’ in 1974, ‘Katy Lied’ in 1975, ‘The Royal Scam’ in 1976, ‘Aja’ in 1977, ‘Gaucho’ in 1980, ‘Alive in America’ in 1995, ‘Two Against Nature’ in 2000, and ‘Everything Must Go’ in 2003.
List of the 10 Best Steely Dan Songs of All Time
Peg is from the album ‘Aja’, and was recorded and releases in late 1977. It peaked at number 11 on the US Billboard charts the year later, and number 8 on the Cash Box charts. The song was a blend of R&B, jazz, disco, and rock.
It included versatile performers, viz., Donald Fagen – vocals; Michael McDonald, Paul Griffin – backup vocals; Tom Scott – Lyricon; Victor Feldman, Gary Coleman – Percussion; Jay Graydon – Solo Guitar; Steve Khan – Guitar; Don Grolnick – Clavinet; Paul Griffin – Electric Piano; Chuck Rainey – Bass; and Rick Marotta – Drums.
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
Album: Pretzel Logic
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number was recorded in 1973, and released the following year. It was the most successful single in the group’s career, and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 4.
The song is from the soft rock and soul jazz genre. It featured performers, viz., Donald Fagen – vocals; Donald Fagen, Tim Schmit – backup vocals; Victor Feldman – flapamba; Walter Becker – bass; Dean Parks – acoustic guitar; Jeff Baxter – solo guitar; Jim Godon – drums; Michael Omartian – piano; and Victor Feldman – percussion.
Album: The Royal Scam
Kid Charlemagne was released as a single in 1976. The album ‘The Royal Scam’ made its way to number 82 on the Billboard charts. The song was an amalgamation of jazz, funk rock, pop rock, and progressive rock.
Famous musicians Donald Fagen – lead vocals; Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Vanetta Fields, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews – backup vocals; Larry Carlton – guitar, Bernard Purdie – drums; Don Grolnick – fender rhodes; Paul Griffin – clavinet; and Chuck Rainey – bass, contributed to this song.
Do It Again
Album: Can’t Buy a Thrill
Do It Again was recorded and released in 1972. The album topped at number 6 on the US charts, and was also on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song falls in the soft rock and funk rock genre. It was written by the both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, with Donald Fagen – lead vocals, electric piano, and organ; Denny Dias – lead guitar and electric sitar; Jeff Baxter – guitar; Victor Feldman – percussion; and Jim Hodder – drums.
My Old School
Album: Countdown to Ecstasy
My Old School was released in 1973. The album reached the 63rd spot on the Billboard charts. The song falls in the soft rock and funk rock genre.
Those who contributed were Donald Fagen – lead vocals and piano; Sherlie Matthews, Myrna Matthews, Royce Jones – backup vocals; Bill Perkins – saxophone; Denny Dias – rhythm guitar; Ernie Watts, Bill Perkins, and Lanny Morgan – saxophone; Jeff Baxter – lead guitar; Jim Hodder – drums and percussion; and Walter Becker – bass guitar.
Album: Katy Lied
Bad Sneakers was recorded in 1974 and released in 1975. This particular song falls in the pop rock genre.
Musicians were Donald Fagen – lead vocals; Michael McDonald – backing vocals; Walter Becker – electric guitar solo; Michael Omartian – piano; Hugh McCracken – electric guitar; Chuck Rainey – bass; Victor Feldman – percussion; and Jeff Porcaro – drums.
Gaucho took two years in the making, from 1978 to 1980, and finally released in 1980. Personal, professional, and creative problems hindered the production of this album. It landed MCA, Steely Dan, and Warner Bros. in a legal battle over album release. Also, a musician threatened to sue over the credits of the song too.
The song was recorded under MCA label, and falls in jazz rock genre. It had 45 sensational performers:
- Donald Fagen – vocals, synthesizer, keyboards, organ
- Michael McDonald, Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson, Frank Floyd, Diva Gray, Gordon Grody, Lani Groves, Leslie Miller, Zachary Sanders, and Toni Wine – backup vocals
- Walter Becker – bass, guitar, lead guitar
- Rob Mounsey – piano, synthesizer
- Don Grolnick – keyboards and clavinet
- Patrick Rebillot and Joe Sample – keyboards
- Steve Khan – guitar, lead guitar
- Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton – lead guitar
- Hugh McCracken, Hiram Bullock, Rick Derringer – guitar
- Chuck Rainey, Anthony Jackson – bass
- Bernard Pretty Purdie, Rick Marotta, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro – drums
- Crusher Bennett, Steve Gadd, Victor Feldman, Ralph McDonald, and Nicholas Marrero – percussion
- Tom Scott – alto saxophone, clarinet, tenor saxophone, lyricon, and horn arrangement
- Michael Brecker and Dave Tofani – tenor saxophone
- David Sanborn – alto saxophone
- Ronny Cuber – baritone saxophone
- Randy Brecker – trumpet and flugelhorn
- George Marge and Walter Kane – clarinet
- Wayne Andre – trombone
- Rob Mounsey – horn arrangement
Only a Fool Would Say That
Album: Can’t Buy a Thrill
Only a Fool Would Say That was released in 1972. The original album cover had an image of a red light area with prostitutes. Francisco Franos banned the cover in Spain. So, a new cover was made suiting the album. Regardless of all this, the album took the number 17 spot on the Billboard Top Pop Albums.
The song had artists like Donald Fagen – acoustic, electric pianos, plastic organ, lead vocals, backing vocals; Jim Hodder – drums, percussion, backing vocals; Jeff Baxter – guitar and pedal steel guitar; Denny Dias – guitar, electric sitar; Elliott Randall – guitar; Jerome Richardson – tenor saxophone; Snooky Young – flugelhorn; Victor Feldman – percussion.
Album: Pretzel Logic
Released: 1973 – 1974
Pretzel Logic is the title song of the album with the same name. It was recorded twice, once in 1973 and again in 1974.
- Donald Fagen – keyboards, saxophone, lead vocals
- Timothy B. Schmit – bass and background vocals
- Jim Hodder – backing vocals
- Walter Becker – bass guitar, background vocals
- Jeff Baxter – lead guitar
- Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro – drums
- Michael Omartian and David Paich – keyboards
- Wilton Felder and Chuck Rainey – bass
- Ben Benay – guitar
- Dean Parks and Denny Dias – guitar, banjo
- Jerome Richardson, Ernie Watts, Plas Johnson – saxophone
- Lew McCreary – horn
- Ollie Mitchell – trumpet
- Victor Feldman – percussion.
Album: The Royal Scam
Haitian Divorce is from the album The Royal Scam, and is their fifth album. It ranked high on many a charts. This song falls in jazz and funk rock genre. It had
- Donald Fagen – keyboards, vocals, background vocals
- Venetta Fields, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews, Michael McDonald, Timothy B. Schmit – background vocals
- Walter Becker – bass guitar
- Chuck Rainey – bass
- Paul Griffin and Don Grolnick – keyboards
- Elliott Randall, Denny Dias, Larry Carlton, and Dean Parks – guitar
- Bob Findley – horn
- Chuck Findley – trumpet
- Dick Hyde – horn, trombone
- Jim Horn, Plas Johnson, and John Klemmer – saxophone
- Rick Marotta and Bernard Purdie – drums
- Gary Coleman – percussion
- Victor Feldman – percussion and keyboards.
More Songs By Steely Dan
- Hey Nineteen
- Deacon Blues
- Babylon Sisters
- Cousin Dupree
- The Boston Rag
These talented men have contributed largely to the music business over the decades. They have successfully collaborated renowned artists to a string of symphonic albums. Steely Dan still captivates old fans while raking in new ones.