R.I.P. Walter Becker of Steely Dan 1950-2017 - Noise11.com
Walter Becker of Steely Dan photo by Ros O'Gorman

Walter Becker of Steely Dan photo by Ros O'Gorman

R.I.P. Walter Becker of Steely Dan 1950-2017

by Paul Cashmere on September 3, 2017

in News

Steely Dan legend Walter Becker has died at the age of 67, his official website ha announced.

Becker recently missed shows with Steely Dan for the Classic East and West concerts in the USA. No details of his death have been revealed at this point.

Walter Becker founded Steely Dan with Donald Fagen in 1972. Steely Dan were an instant hit with their first album ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ in 1972. The album featured two of the band’s now signature tunes ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Reeling In The Years’ as well as ‘Dirty Work’.

Next came ‘Countdown To Ecstasy’ in 1973. It wasn’t as successful but delivered ‘My Old School’ about the upstate New York school Becker and Fagen went to (as well as Chevy Chase).

1974’s ‘Pretzel Logic’ delivered the classic ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ and Steely Dan became one of the hottest tickets in America.

The songs of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen flowed through the 70s. ‘Katy Lied’ was released in 1975. It referenced Australia in the song ‘Black Friday’. The song was about Armageddon. “When Black Friday comes, I fly down to Muswellbrook”, they sang about the mid NSW town away from everything.

By 1976 Steely Dan released their fifth album in 5 years, ‘The Royal Scam’. It featured ‘Kid Charlemagne’.

1977 gave the world the big one, the masterpiece ‘Aja’. It would become Steely Dan’s biggest selling album with millions of sales worldwide.

While ‘Aja’ delivered the critical and global respect, the follow-up ‘Gaucho’ (1980) became the album that broke the band. Becker’s life was in turmoil at that stage. His girlfriend had recently committed suicide in their New York apartment and he was being sued for millions. Around that time he was run over crossing a street in Manhattan and his right leg was broken. Steely Dan disbanded in June 1981.

Becker and Fagen reunited 12 years later in 1993. It took another seven years for an album of new Steely Dan music. ‘Two Against Nature’ was released in 2000. It won four Grammy Awards including Album of the Year.

There was just one more Steely Dan album to come, ‘Everything Must Go’ in 2003.

Becker co-wrote the Rickie Lee Jones song ‘The Horses’ that later became a number 1 hit in Australia for Daryl Braithwaite. The song originally came from her 1989 album ‘Flying Cowboys’. The song came from her 1989 album ‘Flying Cowboys’ which Becker produced.

Becker only made two of his own solo albums. ’11 Tracks of Whack’ was released in 1994, ‘Circus Money’ was released in 2008.

In a statement Donald Fagen said:

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.

Donald Fagen

September 3 2017




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