Steely Dan’s Walter Becker dies aged 67

He and Donald Fagen co-founded the group in 1972

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Steely Dan co-founder, guitarist Walter Becker has died aged 67.

News of Becker’s death was announced on his official website.

Becker had recently undergone an operation that left him unable to appear at the Classic East and West concerts in July.


Born in Queens, New York, Becker met Donald Fagen while both attended the city’s Bard College. They worked as songwriters before relocating to California during the early Seventies, where they formed Steely Dan alongside guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer.

The band enjoyed a string of hit albums and singles during the Seventies – including “Dirty Work”, “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In The Years” from their 1972 debut, Can’t Buy a Thrill, and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” from the 1974 follow-up, Pretzel Logic.


Becker and Fagen remained the group’s core members, with Becker switching to guitar, releasing Katy Lied in 1975, The Royal Scam in 1976 and Aja in 1977.

They eventually called time on the band in 1980, after releasing their Gaucho album. They reunited in 1993 and released two further albums, Two Against Nature (2000) and Everything Must Go (2003).

Fagen has since released a statement about the death of his partner, according to Variety.

“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 with the Steely Dan band.

“Donald Fagen

“September 3 2017”

The October 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring Jack White on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, there are new interviews with Van Morrison, The National, The Dream Syndicate, Steve Winwood, Tony Visconti, The The, The Doors and Sparks. We review LCD Soundsystem, The Style Council, Chris Hillman, Hiss Golden Messenger and Frank Zappa. Our free CD features 15 tracks of the month’s best music, including Lee Renaldo, Mogwai, Wand, Chris Hillman, The Dream Syndicate, Hiss Golden Messenger and more.


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