Happy Birthday Donald Fagen: Steely Dan Appears On ‘VH1 Storytellers’ In 2000

Watch Donald and Walter field questions and perform Dan classics like “Peg,” “Kid Charlemagne,” “Do It Again” and more.

By Nate Todd Jan 10, 2023 6:02 am PST

Donald Fagen was born on this date in 1948 in Passaic, New Jersey near New York City. The singer-songwriter and keyboardist co-founded legendary band Steely Dan along with late guitarist Walter Becker in 1971. Steely Dan’s blend of jazz, rock and R&B distinguished them from the harder-rocking bands of the ‘70s. Another thing that made the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers stand out in the world of visceral ‘70s rock was their knack for cerebral storytelling, something that runs throughout their catalog but is perhaps best highlighted on songs like “Kid Charlemagne,” “Deacon Blues” and more.

So it was only fitting that Fagen and Becker brought Dan to VH1’s Storytellers in 2000. Donald and Walter’s backing band consisted of drummer Ricky Lawson, bassist Tom Barney, keyboardist Ted Baker, guitarist Jon Herington, saxophonists Cornelius Bumpus and Chris Potter, trumpeter Michael Leonhart, trombonist Jim Pugh along with backing vocalists Victoria Cave, Carolyn Leonhart and Cynthia Calhoun. The ensemble opened the program — which was filmed at New York City’s Sony Studios on February 1, 2000 and later airing in April — with “FM (No Static At All).”

Fagen and Becker then fielded the first question which drew some laughs from the knowing audience as it pertained to the name Steely Dan, which comes from the novel Naked Lunch by famed Beat writer William Burroughs and as Donald puts it is a “cartoonish sexual aid.” The band then delivered Aja classic “Peg.” Next, an audience member asks about the inspiration behind the aforementioned “Kid Charlemagne,” from 1976’s The Royal Scam, which Fagen and Becker reveal was loosely based on famed LSD chemist Owsley “Bear” Stanley who is most associated with the Grateful Dead. Steely Dan then delivered “Kid Charlemagne” before Fagen gives some history on New York City “nostalgia” piece “Bad Sneakers,” from 1975’s Katy Lied.

The next question also pertained to New York City and featured a humorous use of a visual aid ahead of a performance of Aja’s “Josie.” Steely Dan keep it light by turning the Storytellers concept around on the audience in another funny bit which references the song “The Fez” although the band doesn’t play it. They did, however, play “Do It Again” from their 1972 debut album Can’t Buy A Thrill along with “Cousin Dupree,” from their soon-to-be-released (at the time) 2000 album Two Against Nature (the LP garnered Dan the coveted Album Of The Year Grammy Award), which prompted the final question of the show. Steely Dan closed out Storytellers with another tune off Two Against Nature, “What A Shame About Me.”

To celebrate Donald Fagen’s birthday, watch him perform with Steely Dan on Storytellers in 2000:

Dan Belcher
Steely Dan (See 5 videos)


Set: FM (No Static At All), Peg, Kid Charlemagne, Bad Sneakers, Josie, Do It Again, Cousin Depree, What A Shame About Me

[Article originally published January 10, 2022]

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