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January 10: The Nightfly

January 10, 2011
imagesDonald Fagen, co-founder, keyboardist and songwriter for Steely Dan, one of the most influential American bands of the 1970s and beyond, was born on this date in 1948 in Passaic, New Jersey. (He was a bar mitzvah at Kendall Park’s Congregation Beth Shalom in 1961, a congregation his father helped to found.) Fagen’s mother was a singer in the Catskills hotels until stage fright waylaid her; Fagen would suffer from the same malady, which limited Steely Dan’s performing schedule. He met his musical partner, Walter Becker, when they were students at Bard College (“And I’m never going back to my old school,” Fagen later wrote); they founded the band in 1972 and hit platinum with their third album, “Aja,” in 1977. Steely Dan, as well as Fagen’s solo work, combine jazz harmonies, tight, shifting rhythms, virtuosic solos, and shrewd, sometimes futuristic lyrics, to create sophisticated music that still holds all the sex appeal of rock and roll. “What do you do with what you’re given, and how do you transform it into something worthwhile?” — Donald Fagen Donald Fagen sings “Deacon Blues” with Steely Dan, Charlotte, NC, August 12, 2006