Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Steely Dan's Walter Becker Dies
Walter Becker, an influential guitarist, songwriter and producer best known as co-founder of GRAMMY winners Steely Dan, has died according to a news post on his official website. No cause of death has been revealed. Becker was 67 years old.
The New York-born Becker — adept at both electric guitar and bass — met his future Steely Dan partner/collaborator Donald Fagen in 1967 while attending Bard College. The duo later moved to California and undertook work as staff songwriters, placing songs such as "I Mean To Shine" on Barbra Streisand's 1971 album, Barbra Joan Streisand.
In 1972 Steely Dan released their debut album, Can't Buy A Thrill, which spawned the hits "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years." Known for their sophisticated songwriting and arrangements, Steely Dan landed a string of subsequent hit albums, including 1974's Pretzel Logic (No. 8), 1977's Aja (No. 3) and 1980's Gaucho (No. 9).
Becker and Fagen engaged the services of a variety of talented musicians on their recordings, which added a unique layer of musical depth to Steely Dan's sound. Musicians who appeared on their albums included Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Larry Carlton (guitar), Steve Gadd and Jeff Porcaro (drums), Michael McDonald (vocals), and Wayne Shorter (saxophone).
Aja featured the jazz-inflected hits "Peg" and "Deacon Blues," while Gaucho spawned the now-classic "Hey Nineteen." Both albums earned Album Of The Year nominations at 20th GRAMMY Awards and 24th GRAMMY Awards, respectively. Aja was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2003.
Following Gaucho, Steely Dan went on a lengthy recording hiatus. During that time, Becker worked as a record producer, helming albums for artists such as Rickie Lee Jones and Michael Franks and Fagen. In 1994 Becker released his debut solo album, 11 Tracks Of Whack, which was produced by Fagen.
Becker and Fagen reconvened Steely Dan in the studio for 2000's Two Against Nature, their first album in 20 years. The album proved to be arguably their biggest success, hitting No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and winning four GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Cousin Dupree."
In 2001 Steely Dan were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two years later, Fagen and Becker recorded what would be the final Steely Dan studio album, Everything Must Go. The album featured "Slang Of Ages," a track on which Becker made his lead vocal debut. In 2008 Becker released his second solo album, Circus Money.
Steely Dan continued to tour in recent years. In 2017 they played live at Classic West and Classic East, two festival-style concerts that featured Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and the Doobie Brothers. However, Becker was unable to perform at either concert due to an undisclosed illness.
'Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967," Fagen wrote in a statement. "I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band."