If you are a fan of classic rock, chances are that you’ve heard of the song rikki don't lose that number. It was released in 1974 by Steely Dan and became their biggest hit to date. It has since become a classic that’s recognizable by fans worldwide. However, not many people know about the underlying meaning of this song. The band’s history & the song itself are laced with ironies that can be hard to decipher at first glance.
The song is a tale of unrequited love that’s also about the fear of lost opportunities. It suggests that Rikki is not in love with the singer, but he wants her to keep his number just in case. It leaves open the possibility that she might change her mind later, a common theme in Steely Dan’s music.
Donald Fagen & Walter Becker wrote this song about a girl named Rikki whom they met at Bard College in New York. They were both in their early twenties when they first met and shared similar experiences. The song was one of their first hits, reaching number four on the charts.
The song starts with a rhythmic guiro that’s then followed by a bass riff that’s inspired by Horace Silver’s jazz composition “Song for My Father.” It’s an interesting combination of genres that gives the song its timeless appeal. This song was the perfect introduction to Steely Dan’s unique sound that blended rock and jazz in a seamless way.