Steely Dan is an American jazz rock band founded by core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The band’s popularity peaked in the late 1970s, and their seven albums over that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Rolling Stone has called them “the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies”.
Recorded with a revolving cast of session musicians, such as Larry Carlton, Steely Dan’s music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies. Becker and Fagen are whimsical, often sarcastic lyricists, having written “cerebral, wry and eccentric” songs about drugs, love affairs, and crime. The pair are also known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio: Over the year they took to record Gaucho (1980), an album of just seven songs, Becker and Fagen hired at least 42 studio musicians and 11 engineers.
Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974 before retiring to the studio. The group disbanded for some years in 1981, and throughout most of the next decade Becker and Fagen were less active, though a cult following remained devoted to the group. In 1993 the two reunited and began playing concerts. Steely Dan has since released two albums of new material, the first of which, Two Against Nature, earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.
William “Smokey” Robinson Jr. (born February 19, 1940) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson was the founder and front-man of the Motown vocal group the Miracles, for which he was also chief songwriter and producer. Robinson led the group from its 1955 origins as “the Five Chimes” until 1972 when he announced a retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.
However, Robinson returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year. Following the sale of Motown Records in 1988, Robinson left the company in 1990. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Robinson was awarded the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to popular music.
Styx is an American rock band from Chicago that formed in 1972 and became famous for its albums released in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are best known for melding hard rock guitar balanced with acoustic guitar, synthesizers mixed with acoustic piano, upbeat tracks with power ballads, and incorporating elements of international musical theatre. The band established itself with a progressive rock sound in the 1970s, and began to incorporate pop rock and soft rock elements in the 1980s.
Styx is best known for the hit songs “Lady”, “Come Sail Away”, “Babe”, “Boat on the River”, “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Renegade” and “Mr. Roboto”. Other major hits include “Don’t Let It End”, “Blue Collar Man”, “The Best of Times”, “The Grand Illusion”, “Crystal Ball”, “Fooling Yourself” and “Suite Madame Blue”. Styx has had 4 consecutive albums certified multi-platinum by the RIAA as well as 16 top 40 singles in the US, 8 of which hit the top 10.
Melissa Manchester (born February 15, 1951) is an American singer-songwriter and actress. Since the 1970s, her songs have been carried by adult contemporary radio stations. She has also appeared on television, in films, and on stage.
Manchester made a brief speaking appearance as “Yoko Ono” on the 1972 album National Lampoon Radio Dinner, on the track entitled “Magical Misery Tour”, and as the singer in “Deteriorata”.
Her debut album, Home to Myself, was released in 1973; Manchester co-wrote many of its songs with Carole Bayer Sager. Two years later, Manchester’s album Melissa produced her first top-ten hit, “Midnight Blue”, which enjoyed 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song’s peak position was #6 for the week of August 9, 1975.
Robert Kelly “Rob” Thomas (born February 14, 1972 in Landstuhl, Germany) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead singer of alternative rock band Matchbox Twenty. Thomas also records and performs as a solo artist, with “Lonely No More” released in 2005 becoming his biggest solo chart success. Thomas earned three Grammy Awards for co-writing and singing on the 1999 hit “Smooth” by Santana.
He has been a songwriter for such artists as Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Marc Anthony, Pat Green, Taylor Hicks, Travis Tritt and Daughtry.
Since 1996, his band has released a string of hit singles to radio including “Push”, “3AM”, “Real World”, “Back 2 Good”, “Bent”, “If You’re Gone”, “Mad Season”, “Disease”, “Unwell”, “Bright Lights”, “How Far We’ve Come”, and “She’s So Mean”. In 2004, the Songwriters Hall of Fame awarded Thomas its first Hal David Starlight Award, recognizing young songwriters who have already had a lasting influence in the music industry.
Peter Brian Gabriel (born February 13, 1950) is an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who rose to fame as the original lead singer of the progressive rock band Genesis. After leaving Genesis in 1975, Gabriel launched a successful solo career with “Solsbury Hill” as his first single. His 1986 album, So, is his best-selling release and is certified triple platinum in the UK and five times platinum in the U.S. The album’s most successful single, “Sledgehammer”, won a record nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards and, according to a report in 2011, it was MTV’s most played music video of all time.
Gabriel has been a champion of world music for much of his career. He co-founded the WOMAD festival in 1982. He has continued to focus on producing and promoting world music through his Real World Records label. He has also pioneered digital distribution methods for music, co-founding OD2, one of the first online music download services. Gabriel has also been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts. In 1980, he released the anti-apartheid single “Biko”. He has participated in several human rights benefit concerts, including Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! tour in 1988, and co-founded the Witness human rights organisation in 1992. Gabriel developed The Elders with Richard Branson, which was launched by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer, songwriter, keyboardist, and record producer. McDonald has won five Grammy Awards.
His early career included singing with Steely Dan. He joined the Doobie Brothers in 1976 and remained an integral member until 1982, after which he released the first of nine solo albums. During his career, he has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Kenny Loggins, David Cassidy, Van Halen, Patti LaBelle, Lee Ritenour, the Winans, Aretha Franklin, Toto, Grizzly Bear and Thundercat. He has also recorded for television and film soundtracks.