Walter Becker, guitarist, bassist and co-writer for the sophisticated, dark-humored band Steely Dan, has died. He was 67.
The news was confirmed by a post on Becker’s personal website. No cause of death was announced.
The more retiring full-term member of the group, Becker was partnered with singer-keyboardist and co-writer Donald Fagen on a string of jazzy, sleekly produced singles and albums that ruled the charts during the ‘70s. After a protracted hiatus, “the Dan” returned to popularity in the ‘90s; their 2000 album “Two Against Nature” collected four Grammys, including one for album of the year.
The pair’s gimlet-eyed, covertly perverse music, garbed in gleaming pop melodies, bebop-derived harmonies and shimmering production, was variously performed with a core working band in the group’s initial heyday; those players were ultimately, and permanently, supplanted by a rotating cast of mostly jazz-schooled studio sidemen.
Becker was largely absent from the musical stage during Steely Dan’s extended separation from 1981-93. It was only after the group’s reunion that he undertook solo recording: His albums “11 Tracks of Whack” (produced by Fagen in 1994) and “Circus Money” (2008) failed to duplicate the band’s success.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Fagen in 2001; with typical dry humor, the pair tersely solicited questions from the star-filled audience during one of the shortest acceptance speeches on record.
Becker was born Feb. 20, 1950 in Queens, N.Y., and was raised in the borough community. Initially a saxophonist, he took up the guitar as a teen.
He encountered his future partner Fagen as a student at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, while playing a gig at the local club the Red Balloon. In his 2013 memoir “Eminent Hipsters,” Fagen – who studied music and English at the school — recalled, “His amp was tweaked to produce a fat, mellow sound, and turned up loud enough to generate a healthy Albert King-like sustain.”
The musicians bonded over their love of jazz and blues and the writing of such novelists as Vladimir Nabokov and humorists Bruce Jay Friedman and Terry Southern. They performed together in a number of campus bands, including one, the Leather Canary, which included classmate and future “Saturday Night Live” star Chevy Chase on drums.
Becker withdrew from Bard without a diploma; after Fagen graduated in 1969, the musicians moved to…