Back in September, we reported that Walter Becker—one of the two core members of Steely Dan—had died, leaving Donald Fagen as the sole living founder of the influential ’70s jazz rock group. Fagen announced his intentions to continue touring as Steely Dan just a week after Becker’s death, stating that he wanted “to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can.”
Those efforts have now been disrupted, though, thanks to a legal challenge from Becker’s family and estate, and a retaliatory lawsuit from Fagen. The argument centers on an agreement drawn up between the band’s founding members, which stated that, upon a member dying or quitting the band, their shares in it would be sold to the remaining members, creating what was, essentially, a Steely Dan tontine. Becker’s family is disputing the contract, stating that his widow should receive 50 percent of the band’s shares, and Fagen has responded by taking them to court. (He’s also suing the band’s business managers for engaging a law firm without his consent.)
Fagen is seeking $1 million in damages, a court declaration that the original buy/sell agreement is still in place, and control of the band’s web site, which is apparently in the Becker family’s hands. All in all, a pretty depressing coda to a group with some fantastic hits to its name, even if no news story that contains the phrase “sole officer of Steely Dan” can be entirely a bummer.