Walter Becker, guitarist, bassist and co-writer for the musically erudite, dark-humored band Steely Dan has died at the age of 67. No cause of death was given, but the news was confirmed on Becker’s personal website.
Becker had cancelled his appearances at the recent Classic West and Classic East concerts due to illness.
His fellow collaborator and bandmate, Donald Fagen, released a statement describing their long partnership and said, “I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”
Becker partnered with singer-keyboardist and co-writer Fagen on a string of jazzy, slick, well-produced and impressive singles and albums that seasoned the charts during the ‘70s. After a protracted hiatus, “the Dan” returned to popularity in the ‘90s; their 2000 album “Two Against Nature” collected four Grammys, including one for album of the year—beating out an angry Madonna.
Becker was largely absent from the musical stage during Steely Dan’s extended separation from 1981-93. It was only after the group’s reunion that he undertook solo recording: His albums “11 Tracks of Whack” (produced by Fagen in 1994) and “Circus Money” (2008) failed to duplicate the band’s success.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Fagen in 2001.
Becker was born Feb. 20, 1950 in Queens, N.Y. Initially a saxophonist, he took up guitar as a teen.
He encountered his future partner Fagen as a student at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, while playing a gig at the local club the Red Balloon. The musicians bonded over their love of jazz and blues and the writing of such novelists as Vladimir Nabokov and humorists Bruce Jay Friedman and Terry Southern. They performed together in a number of campus bands.
The group’s biggest hits came on their album “Aja,” which rocketed to No. 3 in September 1977 due to the success of 2 top-20 singles “Peg” and “Deacon Blues.”
A confluence of difficulties led to the band’s 1981 dissolution. The prolonged making of “Gaucho,” which contained Steely Dan’s final top-10 hit “Hey Nineteen,” witnessed burgeoning antipathy between the two long-running partners.