Walter Becker, musician

Walter Becker, of Steely Dan, performs during the 2007 Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
Walter Becker, of Steely Dan, performs during the 2007 Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
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Walter Becker, who has died at 67, was co-founder of the American jazz rock band, Steely Dan.

A noted guitarist and bassist, he had formed the group with Donald Fagen in 1972, alongside guitarists Jeff Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer.

Becker, who also sang backing vocals, and Fagen remained the core band members as other musicians and singers came and left.

They made six critically-acclaimed albums in eight years, one of which, Aja, sold more than five million copies and was named one of the 500 greatest of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

Born in Queens, New York, to an American father and British mother, Becker was brought up by his father and grandmother after his parents separated and his mother moved back to England.

Paying tribute to his friend, Fagen said: “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.”

Promising to keep the band’s music alive as long as he could, Fagen added of Becker: “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.”

But he added: “His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while.”

Becker’s girlfriend had died in 1980 of a drugs overdose in his New York apartment. The following year he suffered a serious leg injury in a hit-and-run accident in the city.

Steely Dan split soon afterwards and it would be another 20 years before they would rediscover their subversive energy in a triumphant comeback.

However, two months ago he missed two concerts as he recovered from an unspecified ailment.

At the time, Fagen said: “Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”

The group sold more than 40 million albums in all, and were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001.

They were due to play shows in Dublin and London at the end of next month.