Donald Fagen is kind of a dirty old man…and, truthfully, some of his best songs are the ones in which he gets to play (at least I hope he’s playing) a lecherous, kinda creepy dude.
There’s nothing creepy about “Hey Nineteen” in and of itself, unless you consider a fella dating someone half his age creepy (it’s a matter of opinion, of course…personally, I lean towards creepy). Although, a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that Fagen was a relatively young man of 32 when “Hey Nineteen” was released. Still…kinda icky.
The key line of “Hey Nineteen” is Fagen’s comment about his lady not knowing who Aretha Franklin was. Which, I guess is feasible given the time period. By the time 1980 rolled around, the Queen of Soul hadn’t had a hit in four years and was still a couple of years away from reclaiming her chart throne (and a few months away from inching back into popular culture via her Blues Brothers cameo). According to biographer David Ritz, Aretha actually considered suing Steely Dan for libel after hearing “Hey Nineteen”. She was wisely talked out of that decision.
Anyway, this song is primo smooth Steely Dan, damn near the textbook definition of yacht rock, and will be the yardstick by which May/December relationship songs are judged forever, probably.