Listen to the audio above to hear Steely Dan's Donald Fagen remember his friend Roger Nichols on All Things Considered.
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Roger Nichols poses at a Recording Academy Honors event in 2006.
Roger Nichols won seven Grammys over a 40-year career during which he worked with Placido Domingo, Diana Ross, Rickie Lee Jones and John Denver. But he is most known for engineering all the Steely Dan albums. Nichols worked in close partnership with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker to achieve the most high-fidelity recordings possible, even developing a drum machine and sampler called the Wendel to use on Steely Dan's 1979 Gaucho album.
Nichols was born in Oakland, Calif., and worked at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant for three years in the 1960s before going full time at the recording studio and custom equipment supply business he owned. In a 1993 interview he said he made the switch to the music business so he could hear recordings that lived up to his high standards. "The main reason I had gotten involved in the music business and recording was that I hated clicks, pops and ticks on records. I wanted to be able to play 2-track stuff direct from the studio on my system at home and have it really hi-fi," he says. "The strive for true hi-fi was common ground with Donald and Walter and Gary [Katz, Steely Dan's producer] — we're all perfectionists."