Katy tried
I was halfway crucified
I was on the other side
Of no tomorrow
You walked in
And my life began again
Just when I'd spent the last piaster
I could borrow
All night long
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang
I knew was true
Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
Are you crazy are you high
Or just an ordinary guy
Have you done all you can do
Are you with me Doctor

Don't seem right
I've been strung out here all night
I've been waiting for the taste
You said you'd bring to me
Biscayne Bay
Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day
I went searching for the song
You used to sing to me
Katy lies
You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
She is lovely yes she's sly
And you're an ordinary guy
Has she finally got to you
Can you hear me Doctor

Lyrics submitted by AbFab

Dr Wu Lyrics as written by Donald Jay Fagen Walter Carl Becker

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Dr Wu song meanings
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  • +6
    General Comment

    Like HexKaster said, this song is about heroin abuse. Fagen has said in many interviews online, however, that while heroin abuse is a major part of this song, the FOCUS of the song is on the "love-triangle" between the narrator, "Katy," and "Doctor Wu."

    I think that it is "Doctor Wu," not "Katy," who is heroin personified. This may seem weird, but stick it out with me.

    I see this song as being about an addict, the narrator, who is really down on his luck, really poor, a big bum off his friends ("just when I'd spent the last piaster I could borrow") in order to finance his addiction. Then he meets Katy, whom he believes will help him through this time, maybe get him clean, whatever.

    He hangs out with Katy, and they "sing that stupid song"--probably here that means telling themselves over and over again how everything is going to be okay. They're trying to use a little positive reinforcement, or brainwashing, however you see it. :>)

    But even then things don't seem right, somehow, so he gets to talking to his dope, his heroin, who, as I said, is "Doctor Wu." The doctor is his old buddy, so the narrator is just checking in, making sure he's still there, still the same old "ordinary" cat as before.

    Something happens to our narrator while he's talking to Doctor Wu. Sometime during that astounding alto sax solo, Katy has "left" him. It's obvious--he's looking for her everywhere, after all, all through the slums ("Biscayne Bay"), looking for that "song," that bit of reinforcement/brainwashing they gave one another.

    When he finds her, he finds that she's been lying. She's been a two-timer. She's been betraying him. He finds "Doctor Wu" (dope) in Katy's eyes.

    In her attempts to be our poor narrator's angel, his therapist, Katy has become an addict herself.

    So it's all over from there, obviously. The 'Dan love miserable endings, and this is one of their rawest. Katy was just a two-timing little thing after all. She was going to help the narrator, but she got caught "cheating" on him with his own "lover." It really is a "love-dope triangle," as Fagen put it in an interview.

    So the end, therefore, is just the narrator talking to his heroin once more, after he realizes what has happened to Katy. In the first chorus, he questions the heroin (and, through the heroin, himself), wondering whether things are as bad, as crazy as they seem. In the second chorus, he confirms that things ARE as bad as he thought, and that Katy has finally gotten to Doctor Wu, taken him in, become a fellow slave of addiction.

    Just my long opinion, based on what I've read of what Fagen has said on the song. What makes this song so strange to deal with is the lack of a clear direction on who "you" is. Sometimes the narrator is talking to Katy, and sometimes he's talking to heroin and to his heroin-laden self.

    He's just another 'Dan protagonist who's been tricked, is all.:>)

    WritingIsMyReligionon September 01, 2006   Link
  • +5

    I'm a TV news anchor living in Los Angeles and would like to tell my Dr. Wu experience. In about 1991 or so I was working for KSBW TV in Salinas, California. A young female reporter came to work for us from a station in Honolulu. Her name was Janet Wu. She was a lovely girl and very bright. People who know me will tell you that I have a habit of singing out loud while I'm writing news copy and I'm a huge Steely Dan fan. One day while sitting at the typewriter I began singing Dr. Wu. Janet passed by my desk and heard me singing. She stopped and said, "that song is about my dad." I laughed and said,"yeah right." She told me she was serious and went on to tell me the following story. Donald Fagen's mother, whose name is Kathryn, kept secret from Donald the fact that she had a serious heart disorder. Her condition eventually worsened to the point where her poor health became obvious to Donald, who was livid over the fact that she had lied to him about her health. He immediately sought out a doctor who could treat Kathryn's rare condition. That's where heart specialist Dr. Wu comes in. He had a practice in Florida (Biscayne Bay). Janet describes her father as being "kinda weird." That is he is very old school Chinese in his ways. She told me that Westerners find him to be socially inept. Fagen obviously found this to be true when they met. (Are you crazy, are you wise, or just an ordinary guy? Have you done all you can do? Are you with me Doctor?) Shortly after Janet told me the story I did some research on her father and confirmed that he was indeed a Florida heart surgeon. I never confirmed Dr. Wu's contact with Fagen's mother. I have no doubt that Dr. Wu inspired the song. As a song writer myself I can tell you that songs very often end up quite distant from their point of inspiration. They take many twists and turns during the writing process. I think this is true in the development of the song Dr. Wu. My friend, Janet Wu continued her television reporting career. The last I heard she was working in Boston. I've often thought about contacting her to go over some of the details of her story. Maybe someone else can do that. For now I think I'll listen to some Steely Dan.

    Song boyon October 11, 2013   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Just as a point of interest, the "grasshopper" on the front of the album is really not a grasshopper, but is called a Katydid.

    Ajaon May 15, 2007   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Dr Wu was real. Katy is the drug. Drugs lie to you and many times leave you like the shadow of who you were. He was strung out all night. "He was halfway crucified and on the other side of no tomorrow". Dr. Wu an Asian acupuncturist and herbalist based out of Wasahington DC helped Fagen (perhaps both Becker &Fagen) off heroin. During this terrible ordeal the only truth for him was his music. "They would sing their stupid songs all night long". At first users believe that they can handle & over use drugs, Katy lies till you see it in her eyes then at times it is too late. Katy is seductive "she is lovely and she's sly". Then they find out that they are "just ordinary guys" He was grateful for Dr. Wu. Anyone familiar with hard drugs will tell you that getting saved off drugs is getting your like back. Becker & Fagen do not play this song in their live sets (you have to respect them).DR Jing Nuang Wu (1933-2002)emmigrated early from China,acupuncturist, artist, graduated from Harvard, venture capitalist, set up Taoist clinic Re: steelydandictionary.com.

    joeo78501on June 03, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    (...Back again. I'm on a roll, and there's no stopping me.)

    I think that Dr. Wu was a doctor, who was "an ordinary guy" who didn't take drugs. But he got involved with Katy, a friend/groupie of Fagen's, who was a drug dealer. Now this doctor has become a junky, a "shadow of the man that I once knew".

    Fagen questions Katy, "Did you get this ordinary guy high?". "No way!", she lies (but you can see it in her eyes). Now things are really screwed things up. Jeez, the doctor was helping Donald get sober, but Donald screwed things up by introducing Dr. Wu to Katy (of all people) at that pool party. I mean, look at the Doc, he's stoned! Look what she's done to him!

    No "love triangle". Just drugged-out music people and their groupies getting mixed-up with us ordinary types, screwing-up a person's life in the process. Just a theory.

    I think this story is personnal experience of Donald Fagen's that only he can understand.

    DCEngineeron November 05, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Don't seem right - the interpretations offered for this song - let me try another.

    The narrator is beat up, strung out, broke, emotionally shot. Drugs are probably part of the problem. Lots of us find ourselves in that empty place, in one way or another. But there's this woman - Katy - a real woman - who enters his life, masquerading as a friend, pretending not to be romantically interested. In the state the narrator is in, the very last thing he wants or needs is love.

    Dr Wu is a metaphor for that unexplainable part of the narrator (and indeed all of us) who causes us to fall in love, even we try so hard to separate from our "normal" selves. We want to be in control of our lives, our destinies, but Dr Wu - often to our great surprise - walks in without warning, utterly hiujacking everything we're about, all our plans, and our lives truly begin again. He does it at the strangest time and place, and so often with the person we least expect to fall in love with. Katy lies - you know she's just another pretty girl who's trying so hard not to let on how hopelessly she's in love with you. And no matter how hard you try to push away, there's the good doctor - laughing, smiling - he's done it to you again.

    I first heard "Dr Wu" when I received "Steely Dan's Greatest Hits," one of the Columbia House (anybody old enough to remember them?) album of the month that I forgot to tell them I didn't want, back when I was 16 - 31 years ago. It became one of my favorite albums. I heard this song, and it taught me something I'll never forget about love. Dr Wu has shown up for me, about a dozen times. The last one was 24 years ago, just when I spent the last piaster I could borrow. He won, and she finally got to me - so I married her. And all night long, we sing that stupid song, and every word we know is true.

    rlshelleyon November 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I find this song extremely moving.My meaning is that the song is about having someone in your life that will never let you down and will always be there for you..the romance between two junkies,both at the bottom but who still look out for each other and still keep the essence of being human.

    nusoundson May 03, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I just see a guy waiting for Katy to get back with the drugs, and she never shows, cause she did them herself, or with someone else.

    mikee2015on June 18, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    The song represents an epiphany of the singer that everyone suffers some sort of adfictive tendencies. Specifically, the realization that the person who helped him with his addiction, Dr Wu, has his own addictions; perhaps acquiring money or success or a workaholic. In any event Dr Wu has his own "Katy." And so Donald ends struggling with this dichotomy. Just sayin.

    pandelog10on October 03, 2015   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    This seems pretty straightforward, moreso than many think. The guy is strung out, his girlfriend is trying to deal with it but the relationship is strained. He gets help from a doctor (psychiatrist...rehab doctor, etc) ...he catches the doctor with his girl.... "Katy lies..you can see it in her eyes...but imagine my surprise when I saw you" The last thing he expected was to see the doctor with his girl (or ex-gf)..."She is lovely, yes she's sly and you're an ordinary guy, has she finally got to you"....he wants to know if the doctor has fallen in love with the girl... he's also forgiving him, reasoning that any ordinary guy could succumb to this sly woman's charms... It's a story of love lost, drugs, and an uncomfortable doctor/patient relationship.

    ugleeeon November 05, 2012   Link

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