The music world has lost another one of its beloved stars, as Walter Becker died on Sept. 3. The man who helped create Steely Dan was just 67 years old, so get to know all about this classic rock legend.
1. He was one half of the duo that created Steely Dan. Fans of classic rock are in mourning, as guitarist/bassist Walter Becker passed away on Sept. 3. His site announced his death but gave no other details, such as cause of death. Walter was one of co-founders of the long-running rock group, Steely Dan, and his longtime music partner, Donald Fagen, 69, paid tribute to him with a heartfelt message after his death. “Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967,” Donald wrote, per Rolling Stone. “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.”
Donald and Walter formed Steely Dan in 1971, after the two had played in a number of other groups. The initial lineup included Denny Dias, 70, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, 68, and Jim Hodder. Steely Dan would break up in 1981 and reform 12 years later. This second incarnation saw the group achieve critical and commercial success, as they won 4 Grammy awards with their 2000 album Two Against Nature.
2. He was a New York City boy known for California music. Though Steely Dan was associated with the West Coast and the Golden state sound of the 70’s, one of its founding members came from the Big Apple. Walter was born in Queens, New York, growing up in Westchester County and Forest Hills. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he enrolled at Bard College, where he would meet Donald. The rest is history.
3. He struggled with addiction after making it big. Steely Dan found success early in its career, cracking the Top 10 charts with its 1972 song “Do It Again.” They would also find hits with songs like “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Peg” and “Hey Nineteen.” Around 1980, though, things would fall apart for Walter. While he was dealing with his own drug problems, his girlfriend, Karen Stanley, died from an overdose in his Upper West Side apartment, per the Independent. A year layer, her mother would attempt to sue Walter for 17 million. In Feb. 1980, Walter was hit by a taxi, which put him in a wheelchair. Ultimately, both he and Donald agreed it was time to call it quits.
4. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001. Donald and Walter were given rock’s highest honor after the turn of the century, and following the group’s reunion in 1993, they continue to tour and perform.
5. He was beloved by many huge stars. “Walter Becker, you changed my life with your mystical music and guitar playing. You are so loved and I feel for your partner Donald Fagan and your fam,” Ryan Adams, 42, wrote after hearing about Walter’s death. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle 50, said “Steely Dan changed the way I understand music forever. Judd Apatow, 49, also said he had “played no band more often or enjoyed any music more than Steely Dan. They have always made me deliriously happy. RIP Walter Becker.”
Our thoughts go out to Walter’s family and friends during this time of loss.