Steely Dan’s Walter Becker has died; read tributes from Donald Fagen & more
Walter Becker, one half of iconic duo Steely Dan, has died at age 67. The sad news was shared via Becker's official site with simply a "f e b . 2 0 1 9 5 0 — s e p t . 0 3 2 0 1 7" caption above two pictures. Steely Dan played without Becker at the Classic East and West concerts this summer and at the time Donald Fagen told Billboard, ""Walter's recovering from a procedure and hopefully he'll be fine very soon."
UPDATE: Fagen has shared a tribute to Becker:
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.
Becker and Fagen met at Bard College and formed Steely Dan in 1971, and were one of the more popular groups of the 1970s, with a smooth sound and surreal, ironic lyrical style that has made them highly influential. They were also much weirder than the soft rock groups they are often lumped in with. After a string of great albums -- Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied and Aja among them -- Steely Dan split in 1981 but reformed in 1993, releasing two albums in the '00s and touring almost yearly since. Becker also released solo albums, including 1994's 11 Tracks of Whack, and also produced for other artists such as China Crisis, and Rickie Lee Jones.
Rest in peace, Walter. You'll be missed. Read tributes from fellow musicians, plus watch some classic Dan performances, below.