Walter Becker came into my life, totally unknowingly, when I heard Steely Dan's first single on the radio somewhere late 1972 or early 1973. The song was somehow different from what I had heard before. 'Do It Again' had this jazzy undertone (I was not really familiar with jazz at the time and basically still do not have a taste for it) that I could not recognise as such at the time at all. With the mix of rock, pop and jazz made by Steely Dan that changed some years later. I bought 'Do It Again' at a discount somewhere later in 1973. I certainly liked the b-side, 'Fire In The Hole', a lot less at the time.
It would be years before I had the finances to buy more by Steely Dan. It may well be after I bought Donald Fagen's solo album 'The Nightfly' in 1981. All Steely Dan albums were in the mid price series by then and I bought them one after the other.
Some of them were far too jazzy for me. 'Pretzel Logic', 'Aja' and 'Gaucho', which was the first album that I noticed, because a lot of attention was given to its release in 1980 on the radio. The jazzy sound did not really win me over. I never bought 'Gaucho' until I found it cheap on cd.
Later in life I started to notice how complex the music of Steely Dan was. From the very first records, 'Can't Catch A Thrill', arrangements played a big role to become ever more important. With mathematical precision arrangements for the different instruments involved were written out and fitted into the whole. It all sounds so natural, while it must have been a process of perhaps years of work. It was then that I started to appreciated the music of the band for what it was: a work of art. In the 90s and early 00s I played several albums a lot.
Walter Becker was the bass player in Steely Dan mach 1, but also the man who wrote all the music with keyboardist and singer Donald Fagen. Who is exactly responsible for what I do not know. Fact is that Donald Fagen's solo work is up to par with most of Steely Dan's work or certainly with the two albums the band released in the early 00s. Two albums that the world could have done without, despite the fact that the band does meet a certain standard here. I am not familiar with either of Becker's solo albums.
In those days I saw the band live in Ahoy in Rotterdam. I do not have a lot of impressions from the show, I'm afraid. If they had come again I would not have gone a second time, once was enough. The dvd I reviewed a few years back filmed around the same time, is impressive though. To see these musicians up close and play all the intricate arrangements is an experience. A must watch for fans of the band.
On Sunday 3 September it was announced that Becker had died from an undisclosed illness at the age of 67. He leaves behind a very fine legacy the world will remember him by. Every once in a while I put on one of those albums and enjoy myself tremendously. Always starting with 'Can't Buy A Thrill' and 'Katy Lied', my two absolute favourites.
You can listen to my favourite Steely Dan song here: