Steely Dan’s Walter Becker has died at the age of 67. The guitarist and bassist founded the jazz-rock band with Donald Fagen in 1972 alongside guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer. Becker, who also provided backing vocals, and Fagen remained the core band members as other musicians and singers came and left.
His death was announced on Becker’s official website, where a recent picture was posted next to a childhood photo along with the dates of his birth and death. No other details were given.
Fagen paid tribute to his friend in a statement to ABC News which reads:
“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.”
In July Becker missed Steely Dan’s Classic East and West concerts as he recovered from an unspecified ailment.
The group sold more than 40 million albums and were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001. They are slated to play shows in Dublin and London at the end of October.