Last Saturday, September 3rd, was the fifth anniversary of the death of Steely Dan co-founder, bassist and guitar legend Walter Becker. He died of esophageal cancer at his home in New York City at 67.
Becker was born in Queens, New York on February 20th, 1950. Walter grew up a big jazz fan, which led him to take up the saxophone. He then switched to guitar and took lessons from his neighbor, Randy Wolfe, who later became Randy California in the band Spirit.
Becker met Donald Fagen in 1967 when they were students at Bard College in New York State. They formed several early bands, including The Leather Canary, which included Chevy Chase.
After leaving school in 1969, Becker and Fagen then moved to Brooklyn to concentrate on songwriting. They recorded demos with Kenny Vance of Jay and the Americans fame and scored the music in the Richard Pryor film You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It. They also worked as back-up musicians on Jay and the Americans' tour in 1970 and 1971.
Becker and Fagen later became staff songwriters at ABC Records in Los Angeles. But that gig wasn’t a good fit with the label's artists, and they organized a new band, which they named Steely Dan. Steely Dan recorded seven albums between 1972 and 1980.
After some downtime in Hawaii, Becker went to work in the mid 1980’s, producing albums for Rickie Lee Jones and, later, for Donald Fagen. He eventually released a solo album of his own, which was produced by Fagen.
The two reunited as Steely Dan in the early 1990s. The released two more albums. Two Against Nature won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 2001. A month later, the duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the fall of 2017, Becker's widow sued Donald Fagen, claiming his estate should control 50% of the band. Fagen then countersued to get control of the company that runs the Steely Dan name.
As of 2022, the lawsuit has not been resolved while Fagen still tours as Steely Dan.
[Source: Classic Hits Today]