Along with perennial fav The Beatles, Steely Dan was my favorite band. So it was chilling to learn that Walter Becker, one half of the group, passed away recently at age 67. Let’s take a look at this unique member of a very peculiar band:
“Those Art Guys Who Smoked All the Time”
The two founders of Steely Dan met in college and soon began spending all their time creating music in each others’ rooms. Reports say that they were ostracized by their peers, as sitting around a dorm room smoking and arguing about chord resolution is not appealing to most 18-year-olds.
Fun fact: One of their earliest incarnations featured then-undiscovered Chevy Chase on drums.
Their first paid recording gig was on the soundtrack for a Richard Pryor film. They started touring and soon had a couple of hit singles. What followed was nearly a decade of jazz rock excellence. Interestingly enough, Steely Dan didn’t receive a Grammy until 2000. Many consider that award a sort-of apology from the industry for never recognizing the genius of their 1970s albums.
When they split up, Walter Becker took his life in a starkly different direction. He moved to Hawaii, became an avocado rancher, and went on the other side of the glass, opting to spend his years producing records rather than playing on them. The band’s breakup was, for the most part, amicable. They would reunite several times for charity events and the like. Robert Downey, Jr. was such a big fan that he hired him to play at his birthday party.
Here is Aja, widely considered their best album and the height of the 1970s jazz rock movement. Steely Dan’s radio-friendly interpretations were what anchored the style, and kept it in the general public’s consciousness. I strongly implore you to give it a try.