Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker has died at home aged 67, according to the legendary bands official website.
Becker along with fellow bandmate Donald Fagen wrote some of the 1970s biggest hits, including ‘Rikki Don’t Lose that Number’, ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Reelin’ in the Years’.
No cause of death has been announced, but Becker underwent surgery last month and missed Steely Dan’s Classic East and West concerts in July as he recovered from the unspecified ailment.
Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker has died at home aged 67, according to the legendary bands official website
Fagen had told Billboard, ‘Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.’
According to Rolling Stone, Becker’s doctor had advised him not to leave his Malibu home during his post-operative period.
Fagen paid tribute to his bandmate as ‘an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter.’
‘Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967,’ he wrote in a lengthy statement.
‘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.
Walter Becker, left, pictured with Donald Fagen, also of Steely Dan, in 1977
‘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 began collaborating as students at New York’s Bard College, writing hits for other artists, including Barbra Streisand’s ‘I Mean to Shine’, before the pair moved to California in the early Seventies to form Steely Dan.
The band was named after a sex toy in cult classic Naked Lunch, written by William S. Burroughs.
Initially, the band was made up of Becker on bass and singer Fagen, alongside singer David Palmer, guitarists Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter and Denny Dias and drummer Jim Hodder.
Steely Dan members Walter Becker (L) and Donald Fagan won Best Pop Vocal Album for ‘Two Against Nature’ at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 21, 2001
Despite a 20 year absence, Steely Dan reunited in 2000 for Two Against Nature. Pictured is Becker, left and right
And despite countless lineup changes over the years, Becker and Fagen remained the core of Steely Dan, turning out jazz funk meets rock n roll hits.
Their first LP, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972 featuring hits Reelin in the Years, Dirty Work and Do It Again.
And the hits kept coming, with albums Countdown to Ecstasy in 1973, and Pretzel Logic in 1974 with Steely Dan’s biggest song – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.
That year saw a shake-up for the band, as Dias, Baxter and Hodder all quit – over Becker and Fagen’s refusal to tour, according to Becker.
So in 1975, Becker and Fagen created an early ‘supergroup’, featuring performances from the likes of The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald, Toto’s Jeff Porcaro and the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit.
It was with this ‘enlarged band’ concept, they released their best selling album Aja in 1977, their first platinum album which sold more than five million copies worldwide.
But after their huge success, the band and Becker in particular suffered set back after set back, until they decided to part ways for twenty years.
The troubles began in the late 1970s, when Becker’s girlfriend, Karen Roberta Stanley, died of a drug overdose in his apartment on January 30, 1978, resulting in a $17 million wrongful death lawsuit against him.
While Becker – who was suffering from drug addiction – settled out of court, but the lawsuit rattled him, Rolling Stone reported.
A short while later, he was mowed down while crossing the street in New York, shattering his leg.
Becker along with fellow bandmate Donald Fagen (pictured together in the 1970s) wrote some of the 1970s biggest hits, including ‘Rikki Don’t Lose that Number’, ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Reelin’ in the Years
While writing Gaucho, Becker and Fagen suffered another setback when an assistant engineer accidentally deleted track The Second Arrangement.
They were then prevented from releasing an album for the next two years after MCA prevented them from switching labels to Warner Bros.
Eventually, in 1980, they released Gaucho – a major success – but it attracted another lawsuit from a jazz composer claiming copyright infringement.
Steely Dan disbanded the following year and Becker fled to Maui with his then-wife Elinor, a yoga teacher, with whom he had his son Kawai, now 32, and adopted a daughter, Sa.
Seemingly needing a break from the entertainment world, Becker stopped using drugs and began an avocado farmer and cattle rancher, although he still had a small recording studio overlooking the ocean.
Meanwhile Fagen released his first a solo album, The Nightfly, and both he and Becker did the odd piece of production work for other artists.
The pair reunited in 1993 for Fagen’s second solo album, Kamakiriad, and Becker returned to New York. But it wasn’t until 2000 that they released their first studio album in 20 years: Two Against Nature, which won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.
The band later recorded another studio album, Everything Must Go, with Becker making his Steely Dan lead vocal debut on the track Slang of Ages in 2003.