Once upon a time, Steely Dan were hipsters. As frontman Donald Fagen explained in his 2013 book, Eminent Hipsters, he and Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker grew up as aficionados of pre-rock ’n roll cool, studying jazz and Beat Generation writers. During the band’s original 1970s run, they were fixtures in the Village Voice critics’ polls even as their music gradually became smoother, slicker, and more popular. “We were kind of on the cusp of the counterculture and whatever happened afterwards,” Fagen told SPIN in a recent interview about the band’s new live album, Northeast Corridor.
Over the past half-century, Steely Dan have been heroes and villains in equal
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