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Steely Dan’s Walter Becker dead at 67

Walter Becker: 1950-2017
Walter Becker: 1950-2017 (Image credit: Danny Clinch)

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

The news was confirmed on his official website, although no cause of death or further details have been released. He was forced to miss the band’s Classic East and Classic West shows in the US earlier this summer due to an undisclosed illness.

Fellow Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen has issued a statement in the wake of his friend’s death and has vowed to keep the music they created together alive.

He says: “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 20s through the mid-60s, 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 70s and we lost touch for a while. In the 80s, 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.”

Becker was born in New York in 1950 and together with Fagen, formed Steely Dan in the early 70s after the pair relocated to California. They released their debut album Can’t Buy A Thrill in November 1972 but following the launch of 1980’s Gaucho, the band split.

Becker and Fagen reunited in 1993 for live performances and subsequently produced each other’s solo albums – Fagen’s Kamakiriad and Becker’s 11 Tracks of Whack.

Steely Dan launched their long-awaited eighth studio album Two Against Nature in 2000, for which they received four Grammy awards – including the coveted Album Of The Year accolade.

That was followed by 2003’s Everything Must Go, while Becker issued his second solo album Circus Money in 2008.

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Scott looks after Louder’s online buyer’s guides and also scouts out the best deals for music fans from every corner of the internet. He's spent more than 25 years in newspapers and magazines and in 2014 joined our news desk, where he wrote extensively about rock, metal, prog and more. Scott has previous written for the Daily Record, Sunday Mirror, The Herald and IGN.