Interpretation of Steely Dan's Dr. Wu

Discussion in 'Music' started by ChrisCAB, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. ChrisCAB

    ChrisCAB Stunt Coordinator

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    For some reason this song, which I've known and loved for years has been haunting me recently. I've spent some time trying to figure out the meaning. Here's my best shot:

    (1) Katy is heroin (or coke?)
    (2) Dr. Wu is the narrator's friend/dealer

    In the beginning of the song, the narrator is strung out, half-way crucified (a needle in one arm?), a mess. He's out of money and needs a fix. In walks Dr. Wu who shares some of his heroin with the narrator. Everythings good for a while. Then the narrator and Dr. Wu lose touch. The narrator hears that Dr. Wu is a mess. The narrator gets in touch with Dr. Wu who agrees to supply him with some heroin. When Dr. Wu shows up he is in even worse shape than the narrator imagined. The drug has taken its toll on both of them.
     
  2. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Sounds right to me. Great song.
     
  3. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    Dr, Wu, auuuh, yes, he's changed his name now and goes by Dr. Evil these days.[​IMG]
     
  4. PaulT

    PaulT Supporting Actor

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    Reasonable deduction, not quite as specified:

    [Official Biography] Donald Fagen: " "Doctor Wu" is about a triangle, kind of a love-dope triangle. I think usually when we do write songs of a romantic nature, one or more of the participants in the alliance will come under the influence of someone else or some other way of life and that will usually end up in either some sort of compromise or a split. Okay, in this song a girl meets somebody who leads another kind of life and she's attracted to it. Then she comes under the domination of someone else and that results in the ending of the relationship or some amending of the relationship. When we start writing songs like that, that's the way it usually goes. In "Doctor Wu" the "someone else" is a dope habit personified as Doctor Wu. In "Haitian Divorce" it's a hotel gigolo. The details of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "Through With Buzz" are vaguer but the pattern is the same."
     
  5. ChrisCAB

    ChrisCAB Stunt Coordinator

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    thanks for the quote. It's ridiculous to argue with the words of the man who wrote the song, but I like my interpretation better. Like all great lyrics, they're vague enough to admit multiple interpretations yet have the ring of a universal truth.
     
  6. PaulT

    PaulT Supporting Actor

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    I like your interpretation better as well [​IMG]

    In all the interviews I have seen, Fagen is very sarcastic so you never know if his quotes are 'true' or not.
     
  7. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    yep. lover picks dope instead.
     
  8. Stu Rosen

    Stu Rosen Second Unit

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    I seem to remember that Vietnam was involved in the storyline as well.

    Really.
     
  9. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I always thought Dr. Wu was a real guy: 'Dr. Doctor Jing Nuan Wu (1933-2002), an acupuncturist and artist based in Washington DC. Emigrated from China to the US at a young age and graduated from Harvard to become a Wall Street venture capitalist, finally setting up a Taoist clinic in Washington in 1973. Apparently helped one of the band to overcome drug addiction in the mid-70s, hence the lyrical tribute.'


    I pasted that from the Steely Dan Dictionary. Could be full of crap, and I'm sure Fagen knows the meaning behind his own lyrics, but just FYI.

    BTW, don't forget to pick up Donald Fagen's new solo album 'Morph the Cat' on March 7. Can't freakin' wait!! [​IMG]
     
  10. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    Sometimes lyrics are obvious, sometimes I haven't a clue what they mean. Either way they are fascinating. Someone once said music was poetry "in motion". I think rock music is poetry with the fast forward button pushed in. Can be hard to decipher even in slow motion. Steely Dan fans must also watch the Classic Albums dvd on the making of Aja. Also fascinating.
     
  11. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    I've heard this lots of times, too

    "I'm in love with a dope"

    (they never walk away)

    if someone's does a writeup of Blinded by the Light, let me know?
     

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