Popular American jazz rock band Steely Dan’s guitarist, bassist, and co-founder Walter Becker died Sunday of yet unknown causes. His official website posted the news of his sad demise without divulging further details.
Back in July Becker had missed two appearances for the band during its Classic West and Classic East concerts. His absence was explained by the band’s other co-founder and lead vocalist Donald Fagen when he told Billboard early last month that Becker was “recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”
“Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967,” Donald Fagen fondly reminisced in a written tribute to his departed friend and colleague. “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.”
Fagen wrote that the two of them shared a lot of common hobbies such as “ 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.”
Fagen has promised that he intends to “keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”
Musicians and celebrities took to social media to express their grief on Becker’s death with actor Rob Lowe tweeting that the band “was/is one of my favorites.”
Steely Dan was/is one of my favorites. Melodic, hooky, knowingly smart. Truly iconic. Thank you Walter Becker. You brightened my world.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) September 3, 2017
British radio presenter Danny Baker honored the dead guitarist with the following tweet.
Home to hear about Walter Becker. To create a body of work the equal of any in popular music is to remain. Still here. Chained Lightning. pic.twitter.com/WgV7EPmr6L
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) September 3, 2017
Ryan Adams mourned the departed artist tweeting that Becker “changed my life with music.”
Walter Becker, you changed my life with music. You are so loved
Straight to the stars…. My friend pic.twitter.com/vqVeglX5Tc
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) September 3, 2017
Mark Robinson thanked Becker for his “unparalleled contribution.”
rest in peace WALTER BECKER, one half of the team i aspire to everytime I sit down at a piano. thank you for your unparalleled contribution
— Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) September 3, 2017
Becker and Fagen founded Steel Dan back in 1972. Right from its inception till it broke up in 1981, the band enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success churning out hits like:
- “Do it Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years” from its debut album “Can’t Buy a Thrill”
- “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” from the 1974 album “Pretzel Logic”
- “Black Friday” and “Bad Sneakers” from the album “Katy Lied” (1975)
- “Haitian Divorce” was the single from the 1976 album “The Royal Scam”
- “Peg,” “Josie,” and “Deacon Blues” from “Aja” (1977)
- “Hey Nineteen”, and “Time Out of Mind” from “Gaucho” (1980)
During “Gaucho” trouble had already started brewing within the band and in Becker’s personal life, as well, what with his girlfriend dying of a drug overdose and Becker getting sued for $17 million, which he managed to settle out of court. All this attracted bad press for the guitarist and bassist.
This was not the end of the band’s woes as it had to face a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by composer Keith Jarrett accusing the band of basing its title number on his composition “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours,” a fact later acknowledged by Becker.
Just short of a decade, the band finally broke up in 1981 after having entertained fans the world over with some great performances.
However, as fate would have it, Becker and Fagen reunited in 1993 and released “Alive in America” a compilation of the duo’s live performances on CD after coming together for the second time.
The first post-reunion album from the talented band was “Two Against Nature” released in 2000 – the first album by the band after two long decades – followed by “Everything Must Go” in 2003.
“Two Against Nature” was very well received fetching four Grammys including the “Album of the Year” award.
Becker’s final appearance for the band was on May 27, 2017, at the Greenwich Town Party in Greenwich, Connecticut.
RIP Walter Becker!