Steely Dan Co-founder Walter Becker Dead at 67

Iconic rocker co-wrote hits like 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' and 'Reelin' in the Years'

September 3, 2017 12:40 pm
Walter Becker
Walter Becker of Steely Dan performs at Pearl at The Palms on August 23, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)

Guitarist and bassist Walter Becker, who formed the seminal rock band Steely Dan with longtime collaborator Donald Fagen, died Sunday.

He was 67.

“Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967,” Fagen wrote in a tribute for 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.

“I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”

Becker and Fagen met as students at New York’s Bard College and found some early success as songwriters, including Barbra Streisand’s “I Mean to Shine.” But the pair moved to California to form their first band Steely Dan — named after a sex toy reference in the William S. Burroughs novel,  Naked Lunch.

The lineup, except for Becker and Fagen changed regularly after the band’s 1972 debut, Can’t Buy a Thrill, on which Becker played bass. That album produced the signature hits, “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again.”

“Despite the ever-changing lineup, Steely Dan made their stamp on music with a string of pristine, sophisticated albums with ‘calculated and literary lyrics’ that blurred the lines of jazz, pop, rock and soul,” writes Rolling Stone

After original singer David Palmer left, Fagen added vocals to his responsibilities and he sang the band’s biggest hit, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” off 1974’s Pretzel Logic.

Steely Dan was down to a duo surrounded by big-name studio musicians by the time its most acclaimed album dropped in 1977. Aja became the band’s first platinum album, selling more than 5 million copies.

That proved to be the band’s peak as Fagen and Becker didn’t perform together as Steely Dan for twenty years before reforming in 2000. They were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame a year later.

Becker’s passing was first announced on the musician’s official site.

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