His passing was announced on his website this morning. There has been much speculation on either his relationship with Steely Dan partner Donald Fagen and/or his health lately after the guitarist missed both Classic East and West shows recently. Fagen had clarified a few weeks ago that it was medical.
Becker and Fagen met in 1968 at Bard College in New York. Recounting their first meeting Fagen says, “I hear this guy practicing, and it sounded very professional and contemporary.” At first Fagen thought he was African American. The two talked and agreed to be in a band. Steely Dan was named after a naughty toy from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. In the beginning the band also included
guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Denny Dias, David Palmer and drummer Jim Hodder who later died in 1990 at 42.
Becker was born in Queens New York in 1950 and graduated High School in 1967 – the summer of love.
Every Steely Dan album scored, at least, #39 or better in the Billboard Top 200 with “Aja” going to #3 in 1977. Interestingly their 2000 comeback album “Two Against Nature” peaked at #6 out charting the follow up to “Aja”, “Gaucho” which reached #9 in 1980.
Steely Dan also reached the top 40 ten different times with hits like, 1972’s “Do It Again, “Reelin’ In The Years” the following years. They had their biggest hit in 1974 with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” peaking at #4. They followed that up with “Black Friday,””Bad Sneakers,””Kid Charlemagne,””Peg””Deacon Blues””FM (No Static at All)”Josie” and “Hey Nineteen.”
Becker and Fagen were known as the ultimate music perfectionist. They’re brand of groove pop Jazz/fusion showed a certain air of sophistication but Becker didn’t like that tag calling their music Rock and Roll with swing.
Steely Dan employed some of the best musicians in the world for their recordings. Just for “Aja” they brought in on Piano, Joe Sample, Michael Omartian, Don Grolnick, On Guitars, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Denny Dias, Steve Khan, Jay Graydon. There were drummers Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Rick Marotta and Jim Keltner. Tom Scott and Wayne Shorter on Sax and Michael McDonald and Timothy B Schmit on vocals and that just a fragment of who was on there.
Their manager told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977 that the American super-groups were Fleetwood Mac. The Eagles, Chicago and Steely Dan.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 – by John Beaudin
John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver and on iHeartRadio.
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