The death of Walter Becker has fans recalling his many contributions to the music world. The Steely Dan co-founder died over the weekend at age 67 after a lengthy, undisclosed illness. Within hours of Walter Becker’s death, his longtime friend and Steely Dan bandmate, Donald Fagen, paid tribute to him. In a lengthy statement posted by Variety, Fagen revealed that he first met Becker in 1967 at Bard College and they bonded over their love of music, science fiction, and more before forming their life-changing musical partnership.
While Steely Dan’s supporting lineup changed over the years (1975’s Katy Lied features a team of studio musicians that included Toto’s Jeff Porcaro, guitarist Hugh McCracken, and the Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald, for example), Becker and Fagen were the band’s constants throughout the 1970s. After a 20-year hiatus following 1980’s Gaucho, the duo returned with 2000’s Two Against Nature, which won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
In the poignant post about his late musical partner, Fagen described his sense of humor and made this promise to Steely Dan fans: “I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”
— Variety (@Variety) September 3, 2017
Cameron Crowe, who penned a memorable Rolling Stone article about Steely Dan’s sixth album, Aja, back in 1977, reposted the retro article about Steely Dan’s second coming on his website as a tribute to the late star. In the interview, Becker downplayed the success of Steely Dan, whose Aja album was outselling the Rolling Stones at the time. Becker even quipped that he didn’t feel like he was in a band at all.
“No,” Walter said at the time. “But we can get a real good one together in a hurry.”
In addition to Donald Fagen and Cameron Crowe, many other stars paid tribute to the late Steely Dan legend, including singer Ryan Adams, who said Becker changed his life with his music.
“You are so loved Straight to the stars…. My friend,” Adams wrote.
“Travel Safe back home to the stars of which your soul arose. We love and miss you. XO.”
Fellow ’70s superstar Paul Stanley also took to Twitter to remember Walter Becker.
“RIP Walter Becker,” the KISS guitarist wrote. “A major force in a band whose music has defied comparisons and categories. Your music lives on.”
Take a look at more celebrity reaction to the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker.
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
Holy crap, Walter Becker has died (per NYT). Half of most amazing musical duo since Lennon/McCartney. RIP.
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) 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
So, so sad to hear this news…
SD played locally a few years ago, they were as amazing as ever… I asked to go… https://t.co/03hyGE5a2Z
— Julian Lennon (@JulianLennon) September 3, 2017
Steely Dan was/is one of my favorites. Melodic, hooky, knowingly smart. Truly iconic. Thank you Walter Becker. You brightened my world.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) 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
I'm so sad another of my heroes has died. I can't take much more.
Long live Walter Becker!
Long Live STEELY DAN
— Wendy & Lisa (@wendyandlisa) September 3, 2017
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) September 3, 2017
— Slash (@Slash) September 3, 2017
It’s no surprise that Walter Becker’s fans come from all genres. Steely Dan’s influence in 1970s and ’80s pop culture is immeasurable. According to Deadline, Steely Dan songs made their way onto several iconic movie soundtracks and TV shows, including the 1978 film FM which featured the band’s “FM (No Static At All)” alongside heavy hitters of the era like Steve Miller’s (“Fly Like An Eagle”), Foreigner (“Cold As Ice”), and The Eagles (“Life In The Fast Lane”).
In addition, the Steely Dan classics “Peg” and “Deacon Blues” made cameos on WKRP in Cincinnati, while “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” turned up on Knight Rider. The 1980s Cher movie, Mask, also featured the Steely Dan classic, “Dirty Work,” and more recently Becker’s band’s music was featured on Entourage, Ugly Betty, Parenthood, True Blood and Royal Pains.
Check out the video below to see Walter Becker and Steely Dan being introduced by Dick Clark on American Bandstand in the early 1970s.
[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/AP Images]