Walter Becker, one half of iconic duo Steely Dan, has died at age 67. The sad news was shared via Becker’s official site with simply a “f e b . 2 0 1 9 5 0 — s e p t . 0 3 2 0 1 7″ caption above two pictures. Steely Dan played without Becker at the Classic East and West concerts this summer and at the time Donald Fagen told Billboard, “”Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”
UPDATE: Fagen has shared a tribute to Becker:
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.
Becker and Fagen met at Bard College and formed Steely Dan in 1971, and were one of the more popular groups of the 1970s, with a smooth sound and surreal, ironic lyrical style that has made them highly influential. They were also much weirder than the soft rock groups they are often lumped in with. After a string of great albums — Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied and Aja among them — Steely Dan split in 1981 but reformed in 1993, releasing two albums in the ’00s and touring almost yearly since. Becker also released solo albums, including 1994’s 11 Tracks of Whack, and also produced for other artists such as China Crisis, and Rickie Lee Jones.
Rest in peace, Walter. You’ll be missed. Read tributes from fellow musicians, plus watch some classic Dan performances, below.
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen helped mold my mindset about music. He will be in my mind and heart forever. Thank you Walter.
— Thunder….cat (@Thundercat) September 3, 2017
Walter Becker dying is worse than everything. RIP to one of my real legendary heroes.
— Thunder….cat (@Thundercat) September 3, 2017
RIP Walter Becker. Half of one of the greatest and most original bands in rock history.
— Carl Newman (@ACNewman) September 3, 2017
Walter Becker, you changed my life with music. You are so loved
Straight to the stars…. My friend pic.twitter.com/vqVeglX5Tc
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) September 3, 2017
Very very sad this morning. Heard about the passing of Walter Becker. Musical icon and wonderful guy. My… https://t.co/7okP1k4pVX
— Larry Carlton (@TheLarryCarlton) September 3, 2017
Really sad to hear Walter Becker has passed…
Steely Dan music touched me deep. My desert Island music.
— Steve Lukather (@stevelukather) September 3, 2017
RIP Walter Becker. This image on Steely Dan's "Countdown to Ecstacy" inspired me so much in college: unruly nerds with gear, getting it done pic.twitter.com/OcffcAvJB7
— Joel Hodgson (@JoelGHodgson) September 3, 2017
A dollop of Walter Becker genius. Tap asked him to write a little something technical re BREAK LIKE THE WIND & he did. pic.twitter.com/DX8XPz4Oo3
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) September 3, 2017
Holy crap, Walter Becker has died (per NYT). Half of most amazing musical duo since Lennon/McCartney. RIP.
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) September 3, 2017
I have played no band more often or enjoyed any music more than Steely Dan. They have always made me deliriously happy. RIP Walter Becker. https://t.co/3PzVWuMCS9
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) September 3, 2017
RIP Walter Becker. A major force in a band whose music has defied comparisons and categories. You're music lives on. @RollingStone pic.twitter.com/FIFdHs0Eut
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) September 3, 2017
rest in peace WALTER BECKER, one half of the team i aspire to everytime I sit down at a piano. thank you for your unparalleled contribution
— Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) September 3, 2017
Goodbye Walter Becker. Thank you forever. You created my absolute favorite music. And any major dude will tell you… https://t.co/DitBk0islf
— John Mulaney (@mulaney) September 3, 2017
that I bought "Katy Lied" on tape and started obsessing over it. Safe travels along the cosmos to Walter Becker: you changed my life. 2/2
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) September 3, 2017
Ah – sad to hear this. Glad I eventually accepted Steely Dan into my life – it's been made richer by Walter Becker. https://t.co/EVAHLXp7ZL
— Ted Leo (@tedleo) September 3, 2017
In remembrance of Walter Becker I shall perform 200 takes of this guitar part in a space so soundproof that my own stomach may deafen moi
— Matt Berry (@porksmith) September 3, 2017
Rip Walter Becker
Wheel turnin' round and round pic.twitter.com/XG3DsIHvuR
— David Duchovny (@davidduchovny) September 3, 2017