R.I.P. Steely Dan's Walter Becker
Published Sep 03, 2017Walter Becker, one of the co-founders of the classic jazz-rock band Steely Dan, has passed away. He died today (September 3) at the age of 67.
The guitarist/bassist's passing was confirmed on his website. The cause of death has not been revealed, although it was public knowledge that Becker was suffering from ill health: Becker sat out Steely Dan's shows this summer, and the band's singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen told Billboard last month, "Walter's recovering from a procedure and hopefully he'll be fine very soon."
Born in Queen, New York, Becker met Fagen in the late '60s and they began collaborating, eventually forming Steely Dan in 1972. They found commercial success with hits like "Reelin' in the Years," "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" before releasing their classic album Aja in 1977. Becker went through a time of turmoil in the late '70s: he battled addiction and faced a wrongful death lawsuit after his girlfriend overdosed in his apartment. He was also injured when he was hit by a taxi.
Steely Dan broke up in 1981 but reunited in the '90s, eventually releasing a couple of post-millennial albums. Throughout the band's career, Becker and Fagen were the consistent members.
In addition to playing in Steely Dan, Becker released a couple of solo albums and served as a record producer. Below, read a statement about Becker's passing from Fagen.
Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. We started writing nutty little tunes on an upright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of Ward Manor, a mouldering old mansion on the Hudson River that the college used as a dorm.
We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.
Walter had a very rough childhood - I'll spare you the details. Luckily, he was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny. Like a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people's hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art. He used to write letters (never meant to be sent) in my wife Libby's singular voice that made the three of us collapse with laughter.
His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while. In the eighties, when I was putting together the NY Rock and Soul Review with Libby, we hooked up again, revived the Steely Dan concept and developed another terrific band.
I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.
September 3 2017