Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen And ‘Eminent Hipsters’

Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen talks “eminent hipsters” and the cultural outliers that shaped his sound. He joins us.

Rock icon Donald Fagen looks back on a lengthy and ongoing career in his new memoir 'Eminent Hipsters.' He co-founded the classic rock group Steely Dan with Walter Becker in 1972. (Penguin Books USA)

Rock icon Donald Fagen looks back on a lengthy and ongoing career in his new memoir ‘Eminent Hipsters.’ He co-founded the classic rock group Steely Dan with Walter Becker in 1972. (Penguin Books USA)

If you want to know what aging rock stars are thinking on stage when they’re still touring at 65, be careful about asking Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen.  He hates an awful lot of it.  Feels like a performing monkey, he writes.  Daydreams about a fire in the hall.  Sees a crowd so old he wants to call out bingo numbers.  Yikes!  Steely Dan was giant in the 1970s.  Jazz-pop with a lineage of inspiration that Fagen lays out in a new memoir.  The “eminent hipsters,” he writes, that lit up his world.  Earl Hines, Charles Mingus, more.  Up next On Point:  Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen on the life, and “eminent hipsters.”

— Tom Ashbrook


Donald Fagen, Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Multiple Grammy Award-winning musician, songwriter, and, essayist. Co-founder and lead singer of the band Steely Dan. Author of “Eminent Hipsters.” (@SteelyDanSays)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Telegraph: “Eminent Hipsters” by Donald Fagen, review — “As you can tell from this, the 65-year-old American, a proud snark in his youth, has matured into a rabidly grumpy old man. But thankfully age has not stripped him of his keen wit and nose for elegant prose. Rock stars are not necessarily sensitive wordsmiths or deep self-analysts by nature – their life stories, documenting a rake’s progress through narcotics and women, tend to be tossed off as record sales dwindle. In his usual contrary fashion, Fagen has decided instead to create a collage of writing made up of critical essays (some previously published) on the cultural heroes or ’eminent hipsters’ of his youth, combined with his recent tour diary.”

Grantland: Donald Fagen Exposes Unbridled Contempt for Fans in “Eminent Hipsters” — “He’s smart, he’s witty, he has impeccable taste in pretty much everything, he’s extremely cranky, he seems a little lonely in the world, and he’s likely far more vulnerable than he lets on. You’ll learn as much about him as you will from listening to his records. But the nectar of hatred served up by Eminent Hipsters is too sweet not to taste.”

Slate: Reelin’ In the Years — “Perhaps it’s always a mixed bag when we access the inner thoughts of our childhood idols. We don’t want them humanized. Don’t really want to know about their quotidian concerns, their insecurities. ‘Gods do not answer letters,’ John Updike wrote of baseball deity Ted Williams, who refused to acknowledge even the applause of his own fans. Yes, contemporary pop celebrities take to Twitter each time they buy a new pair of sneakers. But ‘twas not ever thus. Twentieth century rock gods, in particular, ascended to pop-culture Olympus on the wings of their unreachable, unknowable cool.”

Read An Excerpt From “Eminent Hipsters” by Donald Fagen


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