Rikki Don’t Lose That Number By Steely Dan: Lyrics Meaning And Interpretation

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The “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” is best understood after a peek into the history of the artist & the song. Steely Dan is an LA-based rock band. It is considered among the greats with over 5 decades of creating good music.

Founded by Donald Fagen & Walter Becker in 1971, the pair quit their lineup in 1974 to exclusively perform & record in studios. Dubbed as antiheroes by Rolling Stones magazine, Steely Dan became famous for complex compositions & cryptic lyrics laced with ironies.

“Rikki don’t lose that number” was their 1974 single after they stopped live performances. It is their biggest commercial hit to date. The “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” is similar to their approach of pitting ironies in their words & verses. To know more about the “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning”, read on.

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What Does the Title Mean

The band wanted to trigger the listener’s imagination. No wonder “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” was preceded by multiple interpretations of the title itself. A common misinterpretation was to presume that the song was about marijuana cigarettes, but it was not. At that time, the Post Office was poised to ban general mail & the prevalent slang for mailing back dope to oneself, used the slang of not losing a number on the mail.

According to a 1985 interview of the band, “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” had nothing to do with dope. In fact, Rikki was a woman that Donald had a crush on, during his heydays of college. She was his Professor’s wife. Then again, the over-interpretation did not end there. Some associate it with a polyamorous relationship, while others called it a subtle song about homosexual interactions. The entire “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” is full of such possible misinterpretations.

Currently, some listeners attribute it to true love in secret while some call it a socially unacceptable fling. Other notions about the song include that the song may be about a secret polyamorous or polygamous relationship. Listeners also opine that It may or may not involve homosexual activities.

Verse 1 – What does it mean

We hear you’re leavin’, that’s okay

I thought our little wild time had just begun

I guessed you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run

But if you have a change of heart

The first verse is ambiguous in the sense it begins with “We”, even when a lover is addressing another lover. The listener is left to imagine who is singing as We.

Is it about two lovers of the person leaving or two good friends who see one friend’s love going away? Nothing much is clear. Thereafter, the words are an appeal to the person going away. They recall the wild time they had together, and how it scared the person to abruptly leave. Then again, he or she could have a change of heart and return.

It is unclear if men, women, or both are singing to a man or woman. The gender remains ambiguous in the words, even though the singers are men.

What does the chorus mean


Rikki, don’t lose that number

You don’t wanna call nobody else

Send it off in a letter to yourself



Here, the band implores Rikki not to lose the number i.e. phone number. Rikki could in fact post it to herself/himself and make sure that it’s never lost.

Rikki, don’t lose that number

It’s the only one you own

You might use it if you feel better

When you get home

The singers then assure her that it’s the only number that Rikki can all, as if it was his or her own. She or he, should not hesitate to reach out. It might put him or her, at ease and make her feel better when he or she gets home.

Although the song interpretation is about Donald’s Professor’s wife Rikki, many listeners believe that the song may be about a gay man called Rikki. While many fair arguments could be made about it, interviews of the Band members suggest that the song is simpler than its presumed to be. In fact, it could be a straightforward love song about unrequited love between two lovers. We could imply that the singer is trying to talk on behalf of both lovers.

The Band deliberately left it all open to interpretation. Maybe the wild time was not about love, but about the consumption of Marijuana?

Verse 2 – What does it mean

I have a friend in town, he’s heard your name

We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row

We could stay inside and play games, I don’t know

And you could have a change of heart


In this Verse, the narration changes from We to me. Now the singer tells Rikki that he has an out-of-town friend visiting. Moreover, this friend knows her name because he or she heard it somewhere.

The lyrics then use more Wordplay of driving to a place called Slow Hand Row. The irony is in the interpretation of enjoying sex or marijuana with a slow hand while driving.

The singer also implies that they all could have some indoor games. Listeners are free to presume those games to be leisure activities at a casino or bed games. Strangely, the singer makes this suggestion but also quips about not knowing the best option. Either way, the singer hopes that Rikki has a change of heart.

Again, the Band leaves interpretations to multiple possibilities. Question is, why does it need an out of town friend? Is it a relative or confidant who could help make the love legitimate? Is it a friend who could participate in sexual or drug-related escapades? Everything is layered with different meanings.

What does the bridge mean

You tell yourself you’re not my kind

But you don’t even know your mind

And you could have a change of heart

The Bridge emphasises that the Singer and Rikki are from different worlds. The. Again, are they? The singer states that Rikki keeps believing that both are different kinds of people. Then again, he remains indecisive as to the nature of their relationship.

The singer implores Rikki to listen to the words and maybe there could be a change of heart. Herein, the difference in kind could be the gender, sexual orientation, marital status or even social disposition.

The irony of the song is that the singer does not reveal much information with clarity but requests Rikki to reflect and answer everything with clarity.


The “rikki don’t lose that number lyrics meaning” has a way of pulling listeners in many directions. It gets the audience to free their minds and try to explore multiple interpretations of the same words.

Nonetheless, this is a surety i.e. whatever the Singer and Rikki do, it’s all clandestine and done with discretion. Rikki has some fear or shame that prevents things from growing further. Eventually, it all depends on Rikki having a change of heart. The singer merely requests Rikki to think about the past and the future, to weigh in on the present decision.

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