Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker has died

Frederick Owens
September 6, 2017

Becker didn't stay and finish his degree, though, choosing instead to move to Brooklyn with Fagen and become a songwriting duo. Donald Fagen may have been the face of this popular but immensely aloof band.

Back in the "70s, when the duo wrote and recorded the bulk of the music upon which their legacy lies, there was a certain mystique derived from the fact that Becker and Fagen made a decision to follow the Beatles" path and retire to the studio.

"It was our perception that if you were going to use jazz harmonies, it had to sound tight, professional; nothing sounds worse (and) sloppy than kids playing jazz", he told Time Out New York in 2008. Chevy Chase is briefly their drummer, keeps "excellent time", and "didn't embarrass us by taking off his clothes". Becker stopped doing drugs after that and began working as a record producer, occasionally working with Fagen on some of his solo work, but the two of them didn't properly reunite until they started touring again in 1993.

John Darnielle, of The Mountain Goats, tweeted: "Steely Dan changed the way I understand music forever".

"RIP Walter Becker", The KISS guitarist wrote. An exacting perfectionist. A coruscating wit.

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Steely Dan guitarist and bassist Walter Becker has died, aged 67.

His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while.

Take a look at more celebrity reaction to the death of Steely Dan's Walter Becker. "It scares the businessmen". "Their 2000 album "Two Against Nature" collected four Grammys, including one for album of the year", Daily Variety reported. We may be so bent that it's unrecognisable. "Good luck, friend", is what I think he's saying.

Such a withering, "bent" eye might not always be appealing, just as a guiding principle of irony can have its limits.

With Fagen on vocals, Steely Dan created songs with literate and often cryptic lyricism. Smugness was mentioned - as usual, pejoratively. Fagen and Becker had a reputation for being cerebral, meticulous, and high-minded. Their collected work, in a certain light, reads something like a metatextural critique of smugness, written by smug dudes acutely, neurotically aware of their own smugness. We'll never know to what degree who designed what in the mix. Steely Dan music touched me deep. What made them different was their obsession with flawless sound. "Chinese music under banyan trees / Here at the dude ranch above the sea", Fagen sings, slight echoes of such music resounding through the song. On the title track for this 1974 record, Becker doesn't have the finesse of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter or Denny Dias-the recording fades out as he's bending notes as if he's in a garage rock band-but this rawness suits the song's loping, winking blues.

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