Dirty Work: Steely Dan was trolling conservative TV host Laura Ingraham way back in 1999
10:10 am
Dirty Work: Steely Dan was trolling conservative TV host Laura Ingraham way back in 1999

You’d think that having achieved the ignominious and largely accidental goal of landing Donald Trump in the White House would have sent conservative “commentators” into a full-on, four-year reverie of glee, but the opposite has been the case. Conservative nattering heads have been consumed with penny-ante rage and pinched with loathing ever since Trump began his term, beating the drums against Robert Mueller, Hillary Clinton, and Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch with the fervor of people who cannot countenance the transparently incompetent and corrupt regime that they have saddled our country with. Tucker Carlson has been doing his best to give white nationalism a limp sheen of preppy respectability, while Sean Hannity has been totally unhinged all year long and this week he learned that he may face serious legal problems due to his questionable relationship with the weirdly mobby Michael Cohen.

And then there’s Laura Ingraham. The crowning achievement of the host of, er, The Ingraham Angle (gag) in 2018 has been to get into an overdetermined brouhaha with arguably the most sympathetic players on the political scene today, those being the young survivors of the horrific shooting spree at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, two months ago. Ingraham mocked the brief spell of misfortune experienced by David Hogg after learning that some California universities had declined his application despite his 4.2 GPA. (He’s since been accepted by UC Irvine.)

The tweet by the Dartmouth graduate started, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it.” It’s difficult to see under what circumstances a teenager would not be permitted to be upset about a college rejection letter but in any case, Ingraham let her core inhumanity show a bit there. The public outcry after Ingraham’s inane expression of schadenfreude were apparently enough to make her advertisers take notice, because she apologized a day later. (Hogg sensibly refused to credit her apology, correctly perceiving it to have been a business decision, pure and simple.)

Back when she was a more normal sort of conservative, before the existence even of Fox News, when she had a program with this silly name of Watch It! on (of all places) MSNBC, Ingraham got on the bad side of rock music’s wittiest jazz-rock duo Steely Dan when she used some of their music in her program. It should have been predictable that ur-Boomers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen would have been spending their lengthy mid-career hiatus (20 years between studio albums) keeping abreast of Monicagate on whatever rudimentary (by our standards) newschannel was available.

Becker and Fagen during this period were fond of writing angry or mock-worshipful missives to people like Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson. In this instance, in early 1999, the two of them tapped out a cease-and-desist letter addressed to Ingraham in which they proposed that Richard Wagner (a favorite of Nazis everywhere, don’t you know) be played instead of the band’s early hit “Dirty Work.”

Here is the letter in its entirety:

From: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker
To: Laura Ingraham, Host, MSNBC Television
Date: February 12, 1999

Dear Ms. Ingraham:

It has come to our attention that you have used the Steely Dan recording of our song “Dirty Work” as cutaway music at the end of your show last Monday. We understand that “Watch It!” is a political talk show. We have been sternly advised by a valued visitor to our official website that we should steer clear of politics, so as not to embarrass ourselves and our fans. While we recognize that you are clearly not bound by any such injunction, we nevertheless owe it to our admirers to stay out of trouble when we can. So we must regrettably insist that our recordings not be used on future broadcasts of your show.
It seems likely that, as the impeachment saga draws to a close, your show will be cancelled or else will morph into one sort of non-political daytime talk show or another (although certainly not a fashion show). If, for some unfathomable reason, “Watch It!” continues in its present form, may we suggest some other more suitable music for use during breaks:

          “Horst Wessel” - Traditional Teutonic anthem
          “Ride of the Valkyrie” - Richard Wagner
          “Theo, Wir Fahr’n Nach Lodz” - 70’s German chartmaker
          “The Lady is a Cryptofascist” - by The Welders of Zion
          Anything by Lou Reed, Helmet, or The Velvet Underground

After learning that you were using our music without permission, we looked in briefly on your show this morning. Being the political naifs that we are, we could hardly be expected to follow the learned colloquy between you and your guests. Are they all Ivy Leaguers? Anyway, we did notice that you looked so sad and maybe a little blotchy too. You’re not allergic to plaid, are you? We are very sorry to be cracking down like this at what is clearly a difficult and trying time for you and your pals. Please don’t take it personally. It’s just business. Okay?


Donald Fagen and Walter Becker
Founders, Steely Dan

Here’s the song Ingraham played on her show, with lead vocals by David Palmer:

via Glenn Kenny

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Donald Fagen song that’s so obscure, Donald Fagen himself probably doesn’t even remember it
Dead to Dan: Steely Dan’s amazing guide to giving up the Grateful Dead and becoming a Steely Dan fan

Posted by Martin Schneider
10:10 am



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