The roots of EVERYTHING for me are in this article about the Walter Becker and Steely Dan, published in Rolling Stone when I was still in high school:

I still think this is one of the better pieces of rock journalism I’ve ever read. It was in the circa-2000 issue that had N Sync on the cover, holiday season before I went away to music school. To me that juxtaposition marked the end of an era of musicianship, even then.

The first time I ever really listened to Steely Dan with any seriousness, my pops and I were cleaning our little 2-story duplex on Louisiana and Constitution in Albuquerque, one spring Saturday just after I had legally emancipated myself so I could get off the street and move back home (divorce courts are not so terribly kind to single fathers, and my relatioship with crazy mom is, at this point, the stuff of legend). He popped the Royal Scam on and about halfway through the record he sat down and started showing me how some of the intros and arrangements worked. I was a few months past 15 and had recently come into an awareness that I was in this thing for life. The world changed for me in an afternoon.

I saw Steely Dan at the Journal Pavilion the spring after this article came out, on their tour for Two Against Nature, with John Harrington just starting out with them on guitar and with Cornelius Bumpus still living and on tenor sax. I’ve seen them many times since then, the most memorable being the first time my pops came to visit after I moved NY. We ran through the rain to meet a scalper outside of the Beacon and I drove such a hard bargain with the scalper, we got the second ticket for free. Steve’s jaw hit the floor, watching his tiny little daughter do that for him. They opened with the Royal Scam and Donald walked in way into the intro, keytar in hand, sat down just in time for the first verse. Even then he was SO COOL. Walter was sober and healthy and sharing the guitar chair with Harrington at that time and they sounded amazing.

The thing that I think is most telling about these two, is at the end of the article, when Walter went to rehab. The thing Donald quietly did for him from a distance speaks volumes about the friendship between that grew between them. A true partnership, something that seems at this state in the industry to be antique. These are the guys that made me feel like it would be cool to go to jazz school as a guitarist. They will always be the great American songwriters, in my book.

Thanks Walter. Steely Dan changed the course of my life forever.

One thought to “Walter Becker, in Memory and Gratitude”

  1. Thank you for sharing this article. I agree- it is written quite beautifully. Captures you from the start, and doesn’t let you go. I’ve listened to Steely Dan for probably thirty years now. Never have had the chance to see them live. But know without a doubt that they, and their music, are one of a kind. Thanks again, and the very best to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *