Walter Becker, the co-founder of the band Steely Dan, passed away on Sunday, September 3 at the age of 67. Becker, the band’s lead guitarist, formed with influential group with Donald Fagen, Steely Dan’s keyboardist and lead vocalist. Steely Dan reached the peak of its popularity in the 1970s with hits such as “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Do It Again,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Hey Nineteen”, “Peg” and “Deacon Blues.”
His death was announced on his official website, which gave no other details. He lived in Maui, Hawaii. A cause for Becker’s death has not yet been given.
Mr. Becker was unable to perform with Steely Dan this summer at Classic West and Classic East in Los Angeles and New York City, two stadium-size festivals of 1970s bands. Last month, Mr. Fagen told Billboard, “Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”
Donald Fagen released the following statement on his Facebook page:
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, both with the Steely Dan band. We’ll miss him forever.
September 3 2017