Steely Dan: Walter Becker Dead At 67

Author: Jim Johnson

According to his official website, Walter Becker, the co-founder of Steely Danalong with Donald Fagen, died today (Sunday) at the age of 67. No other information has been revealed, but the guitarist had been ailing from an undisclosed disease and was unable to perform when Steely Dab took part in the Classic East and Classic West shows in July.

Born in Queens, New York on February 20th, 1950, Becker grew up a jazz fan, which led him to take up the saxophone. He then switched to guitar and took lessons from his neighbor, Randy Wolfe, later known as Randy California in the band Spirit.

He met Fagen in 1967 as students at Bard College in New York State. They formed several bands, including The Leather Canary, which included Chevy Chase.

After leaving school in 1969, Becker and Fagen moved to Brooklyn to concentrate on songwriting. They recorded demos with Kenny Vance of Jay and the Americans and scored the low-budget Richard Pryor film You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It. They also worked as back-up musicians on Jay and the Americans’ 1970-’71 tour.

They became staff songwriters at ABC Records in Los Angeles. But it was not a good fit with the label’s artists, and they organized a new band, which they named Steely Dan after a dildo mentioned in the William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch.

Steely Dan recorded seven albums between 1972 and ’80.

After some downtime in Hawaii, Becker got back to work in the mid-’80s, producing albums for Rickie Lee Jones, and, later, Fagen. He eventually released a solo album of his own, which Fagen produced.

The two men restarted Steely Dan in the early ’90s. The reunion resulted in two more albums. Two Against Nature won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 2001. A month later, the duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

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