Steely Dan's Donald Fagen apologizes to Aimee Mann after she accuses band of sexism
Turns out Aimee Mann didn't look like a perfect fit to open for Steely Dan on the band's twice-postponed summer tour — but not for the reason she initially suspected.
Mann suggested it was sexism at work. But Steely Dan's Donald Fagen took the blame, apologizing and saying in a statement that it was a matter of miscommunication and a perceived mismatch.
"I was supposed to open for Steely Dan this summer. I just found out that they took me off the bill," Mann wrote Wednesday night in a cartoon she posted on Instagram. "No one is entirely sure why, but it seems they thought their audience wouldn't like a female singer-songwriter?"
"As it happens, Steely Dan is the one band that I 100% love, with no reservations, so it really sucks," she added. "But you know what? People are allowed to not like you, for whatever reason."
Fagen issued a statement Thursday morning apologizing to the "Save Me" singer after choosing instrumental band Snarky Puppy as the opener.
"Well, first of all, the idea that I would make any decision based on the gender of a performer is ridiculous. That's something that would never even occur to me," he said, then blamed a "communication problem" on the Steely Dan side of the equation.
"I was misinformed as to how firm the commitment was to any particular opening act. And, although I have the greatest respect for Aimee as a writer and performer, I thought it might not be the best matchup in terms of musical style," continued Fagen, whose longtime creative partner Walter Becker died in 2017. "But I can't pass the buck. I'll take the blame for the screwup. I apologize for any distress this has caused Aimee and her fans."
Steve Winwood was supposed to open for Steely Dan back in 2020. The tour was postponed twice — first to 2021 and then to 2022 — because of the pandemic. Then the "Back in the High Life" singer backed out as the opener on Feb. 1, citing "unforeseen circumstances."
"The scheduled Steely Dan shows will still take place, but with Aimee Mann and Snarky Puppy appearing as special guests," Winwood's website said at the time. But a post that day on Steely Dan's Facebook page cited only Snarky Puppy.
("A rollicking, Grammy-winning mix of jazz, R&B and funk with a rotating cast of 25 members, this band led by bassist Michael League doesn’t sit still long in terms of a musical style, but the results reliably keep its audience on the move as well," The Times' Chris Barton said of Snarky Puppy in 2018.)
Mann's post drew support from musician Jason Isbell and actor-comedian Rob Delaney.
"My wife hates Steely Dan. I have discussed that with Aimee Mann, who truly loves Steely Dan. Now I’ll never again try to convince my wife that Steely Dan is good," Isbell wrote Wednesday night on Twitter. "Aimee opened for us, and I’m so glad to say our audience loved that s—. I was very much honored she’d do it."
Delaney was a bit more, um, upset.
"F— stupid idiots. At least it’s not really Steely Dan anymore?" the "Catastrophe" star wrote in a Thursday morning comment on Instagram. "It’s like whatever s—head conglomerate Donald Fagen delegated decisions to? Musically very bad decision because I know I sure as hell exist in the Steely Dan/Aimee Mann fan 'overlap egg.'
"Plus your music has LOADS in common," he continued. "Humor, hooky melodies + oblique 'odd' choices that massively reward listener. Yet also different enough that you’d be…. literally their ideal opener? I’m so disgusted. Dumb stupid conglomerate Fagen hired and then forgot about. Luxuriate in how wrong they are. Bathe in it. Utter bulls—."
But Mann also said Wednesday night that there's one way Fagen could smooth out the wrinkles in their relationship.
"All is forgiven if Donald just tells me what Brooklyn is about," she tweeted, referring to the Steely Dan song "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)."
Tickets are still available for Steely Dan and Snarky Puppy's Hollywood Bowl concert on May 27. Also, tickets went on sale Thursday morning for seven added tour dates in Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.