Optimism. Alas, we hardly knew you.
Once upon a time, in a land not completely unlike the world we live on now, the scientists of most of the countries of the world decided to ignore politics and work together to learn more about the world we share. The project was called The International Geophysical Year (IGY) and lasted from the middle of 1957 to the end of 1958. And then, of course, things went back to normal.
The group Steely Dan was formed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan after Gary Katz hired them to write songs for the artists on the ABC Record label. Their jazz-influenced songs were not connecting with the groups on that label, and Gary convinced the pair to form their own group to record the songs. Their second single (Do It Again) hit the top ten in 1972 and the pair consistently charted albums and singles for nearly a decade.
In 1981 the group fell apart. Walter moved to Hawaii and successfully kicked his drug habit. Donald spent about a year spinning his wheels and working on his first solo project, the album Nightfly. The album sold over a million copies and its lead single, IGY (What a Beautiful World), reached #26 in the top forty. The song reflected the optimism that surrounded the scientific project and perhaps drove home how we failed that promise.
Sometimes old friends can mend whatever split them apart. In 1986, Walter and Donald both worked on a project produced by Gary. That small interaction was enough to set the two back on the path to reforming the lost Steely Dan. In 1993, Walter produced Donald’s second solo album and the pair subsequently reunited on a national tour. They performed not only the group’s old songs but some of Donald’s solo work as well, including IGY.