Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen

Chicago Review. Sept. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9781641606875. $30. MUSIC
As half of Steely Dan (with the late Walter Becker), Donald Fagen has been making highly intelligent, idiosyncratic, and original music for more than 50 years. Jones (This Is Hip) chronicles Fagen’s life—a true postmodernist whose upbeat music and downbeat attitudes became a hallmark of the 1970s hits. The author’s thorough and readable book follows Fagen from his early years growing up in suburban New Jersey to meeting Becker at Bard College and their formation of Steely Dan. Eventually, they eschewed live performances and concentrated on making studio albums that relied on increasing perfectionism. The author details the creation and reception of classic albums such as Aja, and he examines their lyrics. Fagen made solo recordings when Steely Dan disbanded, before reuniting as live performers in the mid-1990s and making two more albums at the turn of the 21st century. Later in the book, the sections become a comprehensive but somewhat exhaustive chronicle of live dates and studio sessions that will probably appeal only to real Fagen aficionados.
VERDICT Utilizing a wide variety of resources and some author interviews, Jones’s book is an exemplary examination of Fagen’s music and life and will appeal to Steely Dan fans.
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