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Steely Dan: 10 Essential Songs

In honor of the late Walter Becker, we look back at some of the sly jazz-rockers’ best

“It wouldn’t bother me at all,” Steely Dan‘s Walter Becker told Rolling Stone‘s Cameron Crowe in 1977, “not to play on my own album.” He was stating a fact – Steely Dan famously staffed their sessions with the finest studio musicians they could find – but he was also summing up the weird oblique approach to rock-stardom shared by him and his longtime songwriting partner Donald Fagen. From their earliest days as jazz-loving Bard College hipsters to their heyday as wry sophisto-pop aesthetes, the pair were always the strangest kind of hitmakers, cramming their tunes full of as many brainy chords, obscure references and off-color characterizations as possible. Yet, against all odds, they still carved out their own proud niche in the classic-rock canon. Following the sad news of Becker’s passing at age 67, we round up some of the pair’s most memorable oddball anthems.

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“Cousin Dupree” (2000)

Becker and Fagen may have been all grown up when they returned with their multi-Grammy-winning 2000 comeback album, Two Against Nature, but they still couldn’t keep their minds out of the gutter. Case in point: this tale of a deadbeat dude’s futile attempts to seduce his younger cousin. As always, their portrayal of misguided middle-age lust was creepily spot-on: “Honey how you’ve grown/Like a rose/Well, we used to play/When we were three/How about a kiss for your cousin Dupree?” The song would later lead to a bizarre flap with Owen Wilson, when the pair claimed – facetiously or not, it was hard to say – that the premise for his 2006 movie You, Me and Dupree was lifted from the tune.

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