Donald Fagen Apologizes to Aimee Mann and Fans for ‘Screwup’ in Dropping Her From Steely Dan Tour

Donald Fagen has responded to Aimee Mann on the matter of her being dropped from the opening slot on Steely Dan’s summer tour, saying that it was a decision he made because he “thought it might not be the best matchup in terms of musical style.” He also apologized for making the decision after Mann had already been announced and advertised for the tour, saying he didn’t realize it had gotten that far.

The Steely Dan frontman did rebuff Mann’s suggestion — which had been stated with a question mark — that she’d heard suggestions the Dan camp didn’t think a female singer-songwriter was suitable for the tour.

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“Well, first of all,” Fagen says in a statement provided to Variety, “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.”

Fagen continues, “There was a communication problem on our end. 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.

“But I can’t pass the buck,” he adds. “I’ll take the blame for the screwup. I apologize for any distress this has caused Aimee and her fans.”

Steely Dan reps point out the group has had solo female artists open for the group before, including Rickie Lee Jones and the late Phoebe Snow.

Mann had been previously been announced as opening Steely Dan’s shows from June 21 through July 3, with Snarky Puppy picking up that slot in earlier dates on the tour. Snarky Puppy’s opening appearances remain on the schedule; no replacement for Mann on the later dates has been announced.

Mann tells Variety that she accepts Fagen’s explanation of what went down, and that it seems plausible he didn’t know she’d already been officially announced back on Feb. 1. “He probably didn’t even know what stage it was in, something I can easily see happening,” she says.

“I totally disagree about the style thing, though. I know so many people who are fans of mine and fans of theirs, and way more women than were fans in the ’70s. It’s not as segmented as it used to be. People are thinking more of an approach to songwriting than the styles — jazz-influenced versus folk-influenced. Anyway, I still love them, and he owes me that explanation of Brooklyn.”

That last bit refers back to a tweet Mann posted Wednesday night, where she wrote, “All is forgiven if Donald just tells me what Brooklyn is about,” referring to the song “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me),” the meaning of which has puzzled many fans over the decades.

The news of Mann being dropped came via an illustration that the performer posted to her Instagram account, with captions revealing her uncertainty over why she’d been dropped. “No one is entirely sure why,” she wrote, “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. … But you know what? People are allowed to not like you, for whatever reason.” An additional thought bubble reads: “Good luck to all bands.”

When first contacted by Variety Thursday night, Mann said she really wasn’t clear what Fagen or his camp belatedly decided was wrong for the tour, but she added, “I guess we’ll know more when they announce my replacement!”

So far, there’s no sign of a fill-in for Mann on the tour dates, which have a blank space on Steely Dan’s website where Snarky Puppy is listed under the earlier shows. Both artists had been substitutes, in a sense, announced a month and a half ago after the previously co-billed Steve Winwood dropped off the tour.

People who consider themselves fans of both artists took to social media Thursday and today to indicate their distress over the axing of what they considered an ideal double-bill. Fellow artist Jason Isbell wrote, ““Aimee opened for us, and I’m so glad to say our audience loved that shit. I was very much honored she’d do it. … My wife (Amanda Shires) 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.”

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