Walter Becker, the co-founder, guitarist and bassist of Steely Dan, an act known for its wry nature and its low-key musical proficiency, has died. Although Steely Dan arrived as a full band on its 1972 debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill, it soon recast itself as the Becker-Fagen songwriting team, backed by select session musicians.
His death was announced in a brief notice on his official website, with no further details released.
He met Fagen at Bard College in NY in 1967 and the pair "would bond over their love of this music", Reuters reported.
Becker had a very rough childhood, Fagan recalled, but was as smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and great songwriter.
Fagen described his bandmate as "cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically amusing". Their 2000 album Two Against Nature earned four Grammys, including one for album of the year. Fagen may have been the band's lead singer, but there was no doubt that he and Becker shared the same sensibility.
I freely admit that I went many years where I simply couldn't listen to the band's records anymore.
Yesterday, Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker passed away at the age of 67.
Grammy scripter and erstwhile Rolling Stone writer David Wild said Becker "opened up my mind musically and made being a wiseass a fearless act of Pretzel Logic". Steely Dan had become such an overexposed fixture on rock radio (and sometimes beyond), that listener burnout had set in. Becker stopped doing drugs after that and began working as a record producer, occasionally working with Fagen on some of his solo work, but the two of them didn't properly reunite until they started touring again in 1993.
You can see why hip-hop artists were so eager to pay tribute to Becker: the hip-hop samples were part of a symbiotic relationship with black music, as Becker and Fagen nodded to jazz, funk and gospel - sometimes, as on The Royal Scam, all on the same track.
Mr. Becker eventually reunited with Fagen and, after a almost 20-year hiatus, released two albums: "Two Against Nature, " which won four Grammys, including album of the year in 2001, and "Everything Must Go".