It is a rarity in the world of music for a truly unique or wholly original sound to exist. While receiving largely critical praise throughout their 40 plus year career, though often sidelined with all too many classic rock groups from the ‘70s scene, it’s hard to argue that Steely Dan was one of those rare groups that stood the test of time, and had a sound that was truly their own.
While often categorized simply as a rock band, Steely Dan often tested the conventional notions of genre, borrowing style from early jazz, R&B and Big Band artists. Each of which being a clear influence on core members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in their early careers.
There’s also an obvious attention to detail on all Steely Dan’s work, with the anal perfectionism of Fagen and Becker’s production influence making a subtle, but powerful, difference in their art.
Although fans and critics alike often credit Fagen with much of the band’s success, as he is often credited with writing lyrics, and as his vocal performance is often considered as one of the features that makes Steely Dan itself, one cannot downplay the significance of Becker, as a guitarist, bassist, and songwriter, Steely Dan certainly could never have existed without him.
Due to currently unknown causes, Becker tragically died at the age of 67 on September 3, 2017. While longtime fans of Steely Dan cannot imagine an incarnation of the band without Becker, Fagen, his best friend and musical accomplice for the past 40 years, has stated that he “intends to keep the music we created together alive,” hinting at continued live performances with a substitute guitarist.
While no one will ever truly be able to replace Becker, it’s reassuring that devotees to the ensemble will not have to say goodbye anytime soon. If nothing, and if no one else, Becker lives on through his wife and children, his countless fans, and the work he spent his life creating.