Steely Dan, the artistic partnership of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (with a revolving cast of songwriters and players), lasted nearly 50 years before Becker's deathin early September. Now, a dispute between Fagen and Becker's estate, which is now owned by his widow Delia Coffi, has put a bitter spin on the legacy of a warm, winking, coolly funky corner of pop.
The suit is over a "buy/sell" contract the members of Steely Dan signed more than 45 years ago, on Halloween, 1972. The contract, included as an addendum to the complaint filed by Fagen's lawyer, Skip Miller last Tuesday (Nov. 21), says that if any of its signees dies or leaves the band, the band's corporation has the right to immediately repurchase their shares at book value. The contract also includes mention that any transfer of those shares to another person is still subject to the agreement. After Becker's death, Fagen is now the only remaining signee of that contract to hold shares in Steely Dan, Inc.