The Booksmith Presents

An Evening with Steely Dan's Donald Fagen / Eminent Hipsters

In Conversation with Ben Fong-Torres

Wed Nov 6, 2013
Swedish American Hall
7:30 PM
$20 - $40
Music, Literary Arts


Donald Fagen—musician, songwriter, and co-founder of Steely Dan—presents an autobiographical portrait that reveals the cultural figures and currents that shaped his artistic sensibility, along with colorful accounts of his college years and of life on tour.

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Fagen recounts the sprawling 1950’s development that his family moved into when he was eight years old, and how, feeling like he was just sentenced to “a long stretch at hard labor in Squaresville,” he began to seek solace and escape with music (mainly jazz) and books (mainly science fiction). The figures who influenced him most were not the typical ones – Miles Davis, say, or Jack Kerouac – but rather people like Jean Shepherd, whose manic, nightly broadcasts out of WOR-Radio had a tough realism about life and “enthralled a generation of alienated young people;” Henry Mancini, whose swank, chilled-out, noirish soundtracks, especially to films by Blake Edwards, utilized the unconventional, spare instrumentation associated with the cool jazz school; and Mort Fega, the laid back, knowledgeable all night jazz man at WEVD, who was like “the cool uncle you always wished you had.”

Amidst these pieces that examine the “eminent hipsters” who spoke to him as he was coming of age, Fagen gives glimpses into his high school and then his college years at Bard, including the moment he met Walter Becker, who would become his Steely Dan partner. EMINENT HIPSTERS also offers a cranky and hilarious behind-the-scenes account of Fagen’s recent “Dukes of September Rhythm Review” tour with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.

Acclaimed for the literate lyrics and complex arrangements that distinguish both his work with Steely Dan and his solo compositions, Fagen proves himself to be a sophisticated writer with his own distinctive voice in this engaging book.

Donald Fagen was born in 1948 and grew up in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Bard College, where he met musician Walter Becker, with whom he formed Steely Dan. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Fagen has also released four albums of solo material, including, most recently, Sunken Condos. Fagen’s writing has appeared in Premiere, Slate, Harper’s Bazaar and Jazz Times. He lives in New York City. Steely Dan will be on tour later this year, playing more than fifty dates between mid-July and early October, ending with a multi-night run at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Our eminent interviewer Ben Fong-Torres is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. He began writing for Rolling Stone in 1968, in its eighth issue. He is the author of nine books, and his most unique TV credit was his triumphant 1993 stint on Wheel of Fortune. He writes the Radio Waves column in the San Francisco Chronicle and a column at

7:30 PM at the Swedish American Hall (2174 Market Street, above Cafe du Nord, San Francisco)
Tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets online or 800-838-3006
$20 general
$40 VIP (includes preferred seating in front and a copy of Eminent Hipsters)

More Info

800-838-3006 (Box Office)
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  1. Swedish American Hall
    2174 Market Street, San Francisco, CA