Walter Becker, co-founder of American jazz rock band Steely Dan, passes away at 67

A rock and roll fan with a penchant for harmony and obtuse references, Walter Becker, the guitarist, bassist and co-founder of the 1970s rock group Steely Dan, which sold more than 40 million albums and produced such hit singles as ‘Reelin’ In the Years’, ‘Rikki Don’t Lose that Number’ and ‘Deacon Blues’ died Sunday. He was 67.

Walter Becker. Image from Twitter.

Walter Becker. Image from Twitter.

His official website announced his death Sunday with no further details.

Donald Fagen said in a statement Sunday that his Steely Dan bandmate was not only “an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter” but also “smart as a whip,” ″hysterically funny” and “cynical about human nature, including his own.”
“I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band,” Fagen wrote.

Although Steely Dan had been touring recently, Becker had missed performances earlier in the summer in Los Angeles and New York. Fagen later told Billboard that Becker was recovering from a procedure. Fagen said at the time he hoped that Becker would be fine soon.

Musicians were quick to mourn Becker on social media Sunday. Mark Ronson tweeted that Becker was “one half of the team I aspire to every time I sit down at a piano.”

Both Ryan Adams and the band The Mountain Goats tweeted that Becker changed their lives. Slash posted a photo of Becker on Instagram, writing “RIP #WalterBecker”. A Queens native who started out playing the saxophone and eventually picked up the guitar, Becker met Fagen as a student 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,” Fagen recalled in his statement. “We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, (Vladimir) Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.”

They played with the 1960s pop group Jay and the Americans and penned the song ‘I Mean to Shine’, performed by Barbara Streisand in 1971 before moving to California and founding the band, which they named after a sex toy in William S. Burroughs’ 1959 novel Naked Lunch.

“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,” Fagen recalled.

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Published Date: Sep 04, 2017 08:20 pm | Updated Date: Sep 04, 2017 08:20 pm

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