Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen on Walter Becker: ‘Hysterically Funny, a Great Songwriter’

Steely Dan

Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen quickly released a statement about the death of his partner Walter Becker, the only other full-time member of the indelible longtime rockers.

His lengthy and honest statement reads:

Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. We started writing nutty little tunes on an upright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of Ward Manor, a mouldering old mansion on the Hudson River that the college used as a dorm.

We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.

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. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny. Like a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art. He used to write letters (never meant to be sent) in my wife Libby’s singular voice that made the three of us collapse with laughter.


Walter Becker Dead

Walter Becker, Steely Dan Guitarist, Dies at 67

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.

Donald Fagen

September 3 2017

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  1. Julie says:

    I’ve loved Steely Dan since I first heard them in the ’70s. Their music was so different, and every song was unpredictable and satisfying. They’re the only band I’ve seen in concert by myself; that’s how important they were to me. Thanks, Walter and Donald, for sharing your gift.

  2. Dave Bevan says:

    From the first time I heard Steely in the 70s I was hooked. The lyrics and the excellence of tight and talented musicians dictates respect. From my U.K base I have travelled year on year over to U.S to remind myself of why Steely means so much. The venetian this year and tickets for Dublin in October I considered myself lucky with this 2017 bonanza “fix”. The news is very sad in Walters passing but I know Donald and the Band will make sure his talent and contribution lives on. Thanks Walter

  3. Michael & Brenda Reardon says:

    Our heartfelt sympathy to you. Carrying on will keep him with us. Here’s to old friends.❤️

  4. dbull says:

    Rest, Walter….you deserve it. Having seen many Steely Dan concerts, I was always amazed at their top notch sound at each and every one. As a 67 yr “granny”, I must say, you were taken too soon. The music world will miss you. I will miss you.
    Listenening to Steely Dan now, will all day- and beyond.

  5. Joseph Grant says:

    I’ve always been a huge Steely Dan fan. Hearing of Walter Becker death was sad. He and Donald Fagan are two of the best artists to record music ever. I hope their music in Steely Dan lives on forever.

  6. Noel Castle says:

    What a shock, love their music takes me back to the seventies. AJA in particular was my favourite album to play on my quadaphonic stereo Donald and Walter are musical perfectionists and their recordings where A1 . RIP Walter and thank you for making my teenage and later years just that little bit better.

  7. LisaG says:

    Donald, so sorry for your loss–our loss. WB was the epitome of all things cool, from his infectious bass lines to his snarky back stories. Daddy, indeed, don’t live in that New York City no more. RIP Walter. :'(

    • Ted Duggan says:

      Greetings fellow music lovers – sadly another piece of our musical past has died…I once read that Jimmy Page said the opening riff of Reeling In The Years was the best that he ever heard!! High praise indeed and to this day, one that instantly makes your ears perk up when it comes on the radio, etc.

      In college I used to lay back and listen to their albums on heard phones and marvel at the cornucopia of sounds they seamlessly wove together as their lyrics took me to mystical places near and far.

      During a somewhat contentious breakup, I felt like their lyrics were speaking for me… “you’ve been telling me you’re a genius since you were 17.

      In all the time I’ve know you, I still don’t know what you mean.

      The weekend at the college didn’t work out like you planned.

      The things that pass for knowledge, I can’t understand”

      And during my darkest days at Wake Forest the song Deacon Blues perfectly summed up how I felt as I struggled to find my way at a place where I was clearly ill-equipped to fit in.

      RIP Walter and thanks for the great music and memories you and SD gave us over the years!

      Cheers! -TGD

  8. Jay wise says:

    Steely Dan is and will always be the BEST, oh my gosh Walter will be missed, what about the tour? We were going to go see y’all in Jacksonville Fla in October I think it was… what a gifted musician he was… prayers for family, Donald, and everyone else close to him and to all Steely Dan fans… sad day for all of us, I’m listening to nothing but Steely Dan all this week as a tribute, not that I don’t always listen to y’all but this week nothing else. RIP Walter Becker!!!

  9. Linda Perez says:

    I’m very sad to hear about Walter’s passing. He died on the same day as my dad did. Let’s hope they meet in heaven. RIP Mr. Becker. The songs you wrote with Donald Fagan were delightful and funny. They will stand the test of time. Condolences to Walter’s family, friends, and musical collaborators.

  10. realetch says:

    Another great one dies… Rip. We are loosing great musicians too fast. They are irreplaceable… as we can see.

  11. Luis Borges says:

    RIP Walter, you and steely dan are a permanent part of my history in music. Amazing tunes

  12. RIP Walter. Though I feel like I lost somebody I knew my sincerest of condolences go to those who knew him closely – The Steely Dan catalogue and 11 Tracks Of Whack will always have a place of prominence in my music collection

  13. Peter Redding says:

    Steely Dan was my youth and still today my all time fav band.. Have the best o f i my car and every song takes me back in time, and what times they were. RIP Walter Becker you legend..

  14. Linda says:

    Lots of amazing steely dan concerts

  15. Linda says:

    Lots of amazing steely dan concerts

  16. Nicholas Gomez says:

    You wrote the sountrack of my youth…RIP Walter Becker

  17. John Foti says:

    Such sadness. He was so great. Played guitar like no one ever. Sorry for you Donald. Loss for all of us. Once in a lifetime.

  18. Syd Collinson says:

    I loved Steely Dan from Can’t Buy a Thrill onwards and for me they were just the best and the coolest. Becker and Fagan ? Legends.

  19. Loren Jones AKA L.C. says:

    I’m forever grateful to the contributions you have given to the world,
    it is my hope that this extraordinary music stays visible for generations
    to come,you guys are truly a gift.

  20. Debra Simms says:

    When I was young,at 15 years of age,my sister bought “Cant buy a thrill ” I listened to it continuously and the words and melody of “Dirty work” are still permanent in my mind. At age 16
    I bought the 45 single,Do it again,at Woolworths.
    A girl,Sandy A????, took my record home with her the next day.I cannot seem to forget this event. Fast forward to 1984,Dallas Texas,i went
    to a place each Friday,The RailHead,to hear a local band, Backstreet.There last song was always,Reelin in the years and when they made it to television’s Star Search,they performed that song. Memories are a powerful thing.
    Nobody lives forever,but the Amazing fact that Music does Live on past our human existence, well, for me,this is a gift to be cherished and if all goes well , Someday,Music
    will bring World Peace

  21. thank you, to all members of steely dan, my heart is saddened by the loss of Walter Becker. As the motto says ” The Show Must Go On”,
    and so we shall.
    Play on all musicians , so the music never dies.

  22. John Dooley says:

    Very very sad news. Walter Becker was part of one of rock musics greatest groups. He will be sorely missed, however his music and memory will live on forever. RIP Mr Walter Becker, and sincere condolences to his family. Much love from New Zealand music fans.

  23. D says:

    Such a huge loss….a part of me has died too. Fell in love with Steely Dan in high school, love, love, love. My heart goes out to Donald Fagan & all musicians Walter Becker has worked with. Immense loss.

  24. kidbyte says:

    God bless you, Mr. Becker. I didn’t learn to appreciate your and the Dan’s music until I was much older. SD is now my favorite music of my life. Many thanks to both you and Mr. Fagen for all the joy and uplifting times of my life. I will play your music until I fade away. The Dan Forever.

  25. James Allen says:

    Acts 24:15

  26. Penny's Ford says:

    So very sad to hear of this….. Steely Dan has been a massive part of my musical life and Walter will be missed… We will all miss him but will honor his legacy with Donald…. RIP Walter….

  27. I heard the news this morning. So sad. Steely Dan was one of the bands that I equate with my “coming of age”. Sophisticated music, great lyrics……turn it up……louder!!! Could hardly wait to see you in October in Ontario. My deepest condolences on the loss of your friend. We’ll keep him alive on the turntable.

  28. Frank Vigorito says:

    Just heard about the passing of Walter Becker. Very sad and upsetting news! My condolences go out to his friend and music partner Donald Fagen as well as Walter’s family. I can remember the very first time I heard “Do It Again” on the radio. Steely Dan music was the soundtrack to my college days and long after. RIP Walter Becker.

  29. Jay Bennett says:

    Condolences on your loss Donald and alumni of the band. Together, your talents shaped my musical leanings and will provide me a lifetime of pleasure.

  30. Tetesa Hogan says:

    R.I.P. Walter Becker. Steely Dan forever 😍

  31. Mack Wilkinson says:


    So sad. You guys made lovely stuff.

    Mack Wilkinson (from Toad Hall days)

  32. Gordon Smead says:

    I’m heartbroken …

    • Patrick Thomas says:

      i am too, I just wasn’t even thinking this was possible any time soon. Crushed. My heart goes out to all the true Dan Fans!

  33. Ian Rogers says:

    I feel bereft upon hearing about the passing of Steely Dans’ Walter Becker. I had heard that he was not too well but I thought that he would soon recover. I always hoped that both Walter and Donald Fagen would get back in the studio and make one more album. I loved everything they did. Steely Dan music will last forever. RIP Walter Becker.

  34. Brian T. Pittman says:

    Wow, the best band ever!!……hands down!!! Sorry for your loss Donald, thanks for keeping the Dan alive!! Walter Carl Becker – RIP………… sad.

  35. Mel says:

    great guitar player and half of an iconic band. Caught two of their 8 shows in Vegas earlier this year and he was brilliant. RIP and thanks, Walter.

  36. David Pfenninger says:

    One of the finest songwriting duos in modern music, and with exquisite musicianship. WB’s two solo LPs also a joy ( as are DF’s). They did it with style and drive the stake in hippy jive- love, bringing us the real grit. And always with tight arrangement. An epic loss for music fans.

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