Michael McDonald would have become the permanent lead vocalist with Steely Dan if Donald Fagen had got his way.

Fagan confirmed that he’d tried to make McDonald’s ‘70s association a permanent fixture, and that he still regretted it never happened.

McDonald delivered vocals and piano on tour with Steely Dan in 1973 and 1974, and contributed to studio projects until 1980’s Goucho. He returned for another stint in 2006. In a new interview with the New York Times, Fagen explained why the partnership hadn’t been extended.

READ MORE: How Michael McDonald Worked His Way Into Steely Dan

“There was a serious discussion about whether he should replace me as the lead singer, which would have been my personal preference,” he said. “But, for some dumb reason, I was voted down. I didn’t insist, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I mean, here’s this monster singer and musician, and he’s also really funny and a sweetheart of a guy. What’s not to like?”

Fagen also referred to his first interaction with McDonald in 1973, when he “came to [a Steely Dan] rehearsal a few days later and knocked everyone out.” That and other events are recounted in McDonald’s memoir What A Fool Believes, published on May 21 via Dey Street Books.

Kenny Loggins’ Reaction to First Hearing Michael McDonald

Co-author Paul Reiser – the comedian and actor who’s also an accomplished pianist and writer – recalled his own first encounter with McDonald at a neighbor’s house. “And in a surge of moxie, I went, ‘I live literally next door, and I got a music studio with two pianos that I put in just in case this ever happened,’” Reiser recalled. “Would you like to come over?’”

Meanwhile, Kenny Loggins, who co-wrote the song “What A Fool Believes” with McDonald in 1978, said he’d first heard his collaborator’s voice in the Doobie Brothers’ 1977 album Livin’ on the Fault Line, which caused an immediate reaction.

“I just felt like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a major American voice,’” Loggins recalled. “He kind of goes into a trance when we write, and if I say ‘play it again,’ he won’t remember, so I have to record all the time. We have completely different styles vocally, but blend really well. It’s not logical.”

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They remain an intriguing dichotomy of a band.

Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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