Of all the songwriters on this site, Becker and Fagen are the ones I feel best qualified to write about, having heard just about everything they have ever done, and been a fan for as long as I can remember.
They have been called Rock's Mr.Sourpuss ( Donald ) and The Baby-Faced Sadist ( Walter ) and are widely regarded as one of the most impenetrable songwriting partnerships in the history of rock, due to their almost pathological distrust of the media. The fact is that they had little or no interest in their public image, and simply wanted to write music.
In what was probably intended as a put-down, one frustrated journalist once wrote that Becker and Fagen "put jazz changes into pop song structures and wrote hooks ". He makes it sound so easy - but to do that successfully requires a mastery that few songwriters have, and these two have done it a way that, when combined with their intriguing, often poetic lyrics, delivered in Fagen's inimitable vocal style, adds up something totally unique. My view is that Becker and Fagen are one of the most innovative songwriting partnerships of the 20th century, and in the jazz / rock idiom I think they reign supreme.
1977's Aja, and Fagen's 1982 solo album The Nightfly are two of the finest albums of music I have ever heard - slick and polished, yes - some people don't like that aspect of their output, but so multi-layered and unpredictable that they always keep the listener slightly on edge. The sheer quality of the songwriting on the latter album confirms my suspicion that Fagen is the leading creative light in this duo. The fact remains, nevertheless, that 95% of these great songs were a collaborative effort, and there is often curious chemistry at work within the creative processes of many great songwriting partnerships. This is surely one.