Steely Dan Guitarist Walter Becker 1950 – 2017
Walter Becker, co-founding member of the legendary jazz-rock group Steely Dan has died according to the guitarist’s website. Few details have been shared other than the date of Becker’s passing which is today, September 3.
Walter had missed Steely Dan’s most recent shows at the inaugural Classic West and Classic East concerts. Becker’s musical partner in Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, told the crowd at Classic West, “You may have noticed that my longtime partner Walter Becker is not on stage. He took ill shortly before he was to come to California. We wish him a speedy recovery.” In a more recent interview with Billboard Fagen gave a terse response when asked about Becker’s health, “Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.” Though a number of Steely Dan October dates in North America were added to Ticketmaster and put on sale, there was never an official announcement.
Becker was born in New York City on February 20, 1950. He met Fagen at Bard College, a private liberal arts college on the Hudson River north of New York City. The pair played in a number of short-lived bands together including one with future film star Chevy Chase before they moved to Los Angeles. Walter and Donald formed Steely Dan with Denny Dias, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Jim Hodder in the early ’70s. The Dan released their debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill in 1972 and immediately found success with hits such as “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In The Years.” At first Steely Dan was a true band and would tour, but after July 1974 the group stopped playing live and focused on studio efforts. Most of the members outside of Becker and Fagen, who were masterminding such LPs as Katy Laid, The Royal Scam and Aja, left the group.
Between 1972 and 1980 Steely Dan released eight albums, each of which were critical and commercial successes. The band issued such beloved singles as “Peg,” “Josie,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Show Biz Kids” and “My Old School.” Walter and Donald would recruit a who’s who of musicians from the rock and jazz worlds to contribute to their LPs. Steely Dan ran out of steam and broke up in June of 1981 at which point Becker moved to Hawaii to become an avocado farmer.
The band still sold plenty of records during their breakup and concert promoters pined for their return to the live stage. Walter and Donald rekindled their friendship and working relationship towards the end of the ’80s and officially reunited Steely Dan for a tour in 1993. The Dan has been touring at various intervals ever since and issued Two Against Nature in 2000 and Everything Must Go in 2003. Earlier this year the band played a residency in Las Vegas as well as a handful of other performances. Becker was on stage at all of the shows up until the Classic West and East concerts.
Walter Becker was 67 years old.