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Donald Fagen Blasts Rolling Stone

Donald Fagen
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen won’t be renewing his subscription to Rolling Stone as he recently blasted the publication and writer Andy Greene for misquoting him. The Steely Dan star was especially pissed that some of his quotes could be taken as shots at Bob Dylan and his Duke of September tour mates Michael McDonald and Boz Scraggs. Via his Facebook page, Fagen posted a letter that read in part, “I did an interview with this guy Andy Greene that appeared in the recent issue of Rolling Stone. You know, the one where they thought it was cool to put the mass killer on the cover. There’s been a little confusion about some things I said (or didn’t say) so I’d like to clarify . . . The interview was supposed to be about drumming up business for Steely Dan’s summer tour. Walter Becker and I were originally scheduled to do the interview together on the phone, but it got botched up and we ended up talking to Greene separately.”

Fagen continued, “Greene brought up Bob Dylan. Because I could tell that Greene loved Dylan as much as I did, I let down my guard, and we started in with the classic fan talk, picking apart his recent work and mourning the fact that his erstwhile astonishing voice has now been reduced to a croak . . . For Dylan idolaters, Bob analysis is a real party. We try to mimic his many eccentric vocal styles – folky Bob, psychedelic Bob, post-motorcycle accident Bob, Jesus-freak Bob – it’s fun. In college, we played a Dylan lyrics game: ‘Name two items that hung from the head of the mule.’ ‘Oh c’mon, that’s easy. Jewels and binoculars, of course.’ . . . For a moment, forgetting I was talking to a reporter, I started joking about the recent albums that always seem to have several, long blues-based tunes in minor keys. The lyrics are always great, but the tunes have limited musical interest, perhaps because Dylan needs to accommodate his damaged voice. Because Bob has meant so much to us for so long, because he’s astonished us for so long, maybe we feel we can kid him as if he were family . . . Big mistake, as you will soon see.”

Fagen added, “And it got worse. Greene had read the galleys of a book I wrote, Eminent Hipsters, a collection of pieces I’ve written over the years that’s coming out in October. The most recent is a journal I kept during last summer’s Dukes of September tour. The Dukes are Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and myself singing some of the R&B and soul tunes we grew up with, plus some of our individual radio hits . . . The piece is an entirely subjective, jokey view of what it’s like to be on tour. I talk about the stress of doing one-nighters in your sixties, living on buses and in hotel rooms, moving around the country in a state of perpetual exhaustion. I get upset about the lukewarm audience response for the great old tunes we love and fantasize taking out my rage on the crowd. It’s that sort of thing. I also confess my worries about taking prescribed pain-killers for the various aches and pains of aging. There’s almost no personal information about my friends Mike or Boz in the piece.”

He concluded, “Nevertheless, the next day, online: Donald Fagen blasts boring Dylan, McDonald & Scaggs . . . Cranky Steely Dan star Donald Fagen has blasted Bob Dylan and his Dukes of September tourmates Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in a new Rolling Stone magazine article.The 65-year-old rocker reveals he has walked out of several Dylan shows because he finds the folk-rock icon ‘tedious’ and admits he took ‘certain pharmaceuticals’ to help him relieve the boredom of touring with Scaggs and McDonald . . . Keep your powder dry, y’all.”

Greene quickly responded to Fagen’s letter and wrote, “I’m the Rolling Stone writer referenced in your Donald Fagen piece. I spoke with Donald the other week and posted a complete transcript on our website . . . He’s angry that Contact Music took his words out of context, and his post implies I wrote the Contact piece. At the very least, I wish you’d take the word ‘misquote’ out of your piece. My Q&A quotes him verbatim.”

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