Walter Becker, Steely Dan Guitarist & Co-Founder, Dies at 67



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Walter Becker

He was absent at both of the band’s performances during July’s Classic West and Classic East concerts due to an unspecified illness.

Steely Dan guitarist and co-founder Walter Becker died Sunday at the age of 67.

News of Becker’s death was announced on his official website. Further details of his passing were not revealed.

Becker was absent at both of Steely Dan’s performances during July’s Classic West and Classic East concerts due to an unspecified illness. In August, Donald Fagen told Billboardthat his bandmate was “recovering from a procedure” but didn’t elaborate.

After becoming musical collaborators as students at New York’s Bard College, Becker and Fagen went on to turn out numerous hit songs during the 1970s, including “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number,” “Deacon Blues,” “Kid Charlemagne,” “Hey Nineteen” and “My Old School.”

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  1. RIP Mr. Becker…. sad news and only 67.

    Steely Dan was one of those influential music groups that came to me in my younger and formative years..

  2. RIP Mr. Becker. For my money – next to The Beatles – Steely Dan were the most innovative and interesting bands of the era.
    It is a sad day.
    This is very sad.

  3. RIP

    Steely Dan were very talented, much underrated and really could have done so much more.

    I have always wondered why they did not tour more early on and why they went dormant for so many years.

  4. I still kick myself for not hopping a ferry to see Steely Dan at Nat Bailey Stadium in the summer of ’96. One of the world’s greatest bands in one of the most perfect ballparks. Heard about it at the last minute but figured, wrongly that they’d eventually get over to Victoria.

    However he died, Walter Becker was no stranger to tragedy. His girlfriend fatally overdosed in his home and her next of kin sued. Later, in an unrelated incident, Walter was run over and sustained serious injuries. Apparently, he’s survived by a wife and child. So hopefully his final decades were more tranquil.

    In addition to the Dan’s enduring music, the Becker-Fagen alliance also gave Michael MacDonald his crucial big break. And his keyboard and backup vocal work on early Dan sessions gave him cred to The Doobie Brothers. After hiring another Dan musician, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, The Doobs took his advice and brought in Michael to first complement and soon replace ailing lead vocalist Tom Johnson. How different pop history might have been if Steely Dan hadn’t been an incubator for exceptionally talented newcomers.

    Music aficionados remain eternally grateful Mr. Becker.

  5. As a program director of an album rock FM station the only platinum album I ever received from a record company was for Steely Dan’s “Aja”. To this day they are STILL on my devices daily listening. Walter Becker, you were one of the finest. You will be missed.

  6. Sorry to hear about Becker’s passing. My first exposure to Steely Dan came when I started junior high in 1982 and I heard “Josie” on the car stereo’s tape deck on my way to school. From the get-go, that’s what got me interested in Steely Dan and the high level of musicianship displayed by Becker and Donald Fagen in their songs and albums. On that basis, Becker’s one of those musical gems that comes along only rarely and he will indeed be missed.

  7. Apparently, they did not feel comfortable touring and this is one of the reasons they were not bigger. Even today, you have to get out there, meet your fans or your career will be shortened. Its no different forty years ago from what it is today. They had ten good years, way more than most bands who have real talent.

  8. While it is true SD was not much of a touring band during their heydays, it was quite clear Walter and Donald became more than comfortable with it eventually.

    The 80’s, after the release of “Gaucho” were quiet with the exception of solo projects, but in 1995 they released “Live in America” to great reviews….it was music recorded in 93/94 tours and showed them in fine form. They began to tour with more regularity in the late 90’s and with the release of two more studio albums in 2000 and 2003 they began a fairly regular schedule of touring, usually during the summer, a variety of locales across the US and Canada and occasionaly overseas.

    In fact, I saw them four times between 2007 and 2014 in Montreal during the Jazz Festival, NYC at the Beacon Theatre, Toronto at Ontario Place, and most recently in Portland. All were great shows and they seemed to quite enjoy the event…and had a killer band with them of course.

    Donald states he’ll continue to tour with the SD band, and given he’s the “voice”, we’ll all be able to enjoy the music for a while yet…but minus Walter’s “tasty licks” and wandering tequila referencing speeches that punctuate “Hey 19”.


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