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 has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.