After an impressive run of critically and commercially successful albums and singles, smart-rock outfit Steely Dan called it a day in June 1981. Just over a year later, one half of the band's brain trust, Donald Fagen, released solo song, "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)." The track served as the lead single from Fagen's debut solo album, The Nightfly.
"I was compelled to make this. I'd reached a certain age where I could feel some kind of internal dissonance compelling me to examine where I came from, who I was, that kind of thing," Fagen told Uncut in 2016. "It was essentially an identity crisis – a little late-coming identity crisis. But it was that all the same. Musicians being a kind of perpetual adolescent, I was able to postpone my appointment with the reality principle. It just happened."
Issued as a single in September 1982, "I.G.Y." sauntered up the charts to peak at #26 for the week of November 27, 1982. The song held onto the #26 spot for three straight weeks, finally tumbling all the way down to #65 for the week of December 18, 1982.
The song's title? A reference to the International Geophysical Year, which took place between 1957-58. The project's goal: an international effort to coordinate the collection of geophysical data from around the world.