Happy Birthday Donald Fagen: Steely Dan Live In Virginia 1996

Donald Fragen of Steely Dan performs onstage during The Classic West at Dodger Stadium on July 15, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Steely Dan co-founding member Donald Fagen celebrates his birthday today. Fagen was born on January 10, 1948 in Passaic, New Jersey and later moved to South Brunswick. While Fagen began listening to rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1950s, he was soon turned on to jazz after attending the Newport Jazz Festival. He began taking the bus into Manhattan where he would catch shows by jazz legends like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. He also got into the soul of Motown and early funk music like Sly & the Family Stone. It was the combination of jazz, rock and soul that would define the Steely Dan sound.

Inspired by Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Fagen began studying English Literature at Bard College just up the Hudson River from New York City in Annandale-on-Hudson (immortalized in the Steely Dan song “My Old School”) in 1965. There he met Dan co-founder, the late Walter Becker, and in 1970 the duo began laying the groundwork for what would become Steely Dan.

By 1971, both Becker and Fagen moved from New York to Los Angeles – a dichotomy that is also important in the Steely Dan sound — to work as songwriters for ABC/Dunhill Records, who would release all of Steely Dan’s stellar 1970s records. The group began with “Can’t Buy A Thrill” in 1972, an amazing debut LP that immediately cemented Fagen and Becker as premiere songwriters and bandleaders.

While “Can’t Buy A Thrill” featured rock sounds, Steely Dan immediately began incorporating jazz and soul in the mix with the subsequent albums Count Down To Ecstacy, Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied. It was during this time that Dan established their studio process of hiring session musicians rather than having a regular band. The Dan also began to focus solely on recording and ceased touring. After releasing the groundbreaking albums Aja and Gaucho in 1977 and 1980 respectively, Steely Dan disbanded in 1981, although Fagen and Becker continued to work together.

In 1993, Steely Dan reunited and began touring again in earnest, bringing their studio process of hiring session musicians to the stage. The 1996 Art Crimes Tour saw the band performing 48 concerts around the world beginning with an extensive U.S. leg. About halfway through the U.S. tour, Steely Dan conducted a two-night stand at Nissan Pavilion in Virginia.

The Nissan Pavilion show from July 21 saw Steely Dan — Donald Fagen (keyboards, vocals), Walter Becker (guitar, vocals) Ari Ambrose (saxophone), Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery (vocals), Cornelius Bumpus (saxophone), John Beasley (keyboards), Michael Leonhart (trumpet), Michelle Wiley (vocals), Ricky Lawson (drums) Tom Barney (bass) and Wayne Krantz (guitar) — playing a number of classics like opener “Do It Again,” “Josie,” “FM (No Static At All),” “Hey Nineteen,” “Peg” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Kid Charlemagne” and more. The show’s penultimate number was “I.G.Y.” from Fagen’s 1982 debut solo album The Nightfly ahead of set closer, “My Old School.”

To celebrate Donald Fagen’s birthday, watch Steely Dan’s 1996 performance at Nissan Pavillion in Virginia via the JamBase Live Video Archive below:

Steely Dan at Nissan Pavilion
Jul 21, 1996
Bristow, VA
Art Crimes
Do It Again
Bad Sneakers
Everyone's Gone to the Movies
Jack of Speed
FM (No Static at All)
Hey Nineteen
Green Earrings
Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Green Flower Street 
Rikki Don't Lose That Number
East St. Louis Toodle-Oo 
Glamour Profession
My Waterloo 
Wet Side Story
Midnite Cruiser
Black Cow
Home at Last
Kid Charlemagne
My Old School

Carlos Alves de Sousa