Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker dies at age 67

Walter Becker (right) poses his Steely Dan partner and co-founder Donald Fagen in 2005.
Walter Becker (right) poses his Steely Dan partner and co-founder Donald Fagen in 2005.PHOTO: GIANT RECORDS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Walter Becker, guitarist co-founder of the influential band Steely Dan, died on Sunday at age 67, according to his website, which did not disclose the cause of death.

Becker was lead guitarist of the sophisticated, jazz-flavoured Steely Dan, which he formed with Donald Fagen, the keyboardist and lead vocalist.

In its heyday in the 1970's, the band scored hits with Reelin' in the Years, Do It Again, Rikki Don't Lose That Number and Deacon Blues.

Born in New York City in 1950, Becker grew up revering the jazz giants Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. He and Fagen would bond over their love of this music after meeting as students at Bard College in New York 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," Fagen said in a statement on Sunday published by Variety.

After working as touring musicians they moved to Los Angeles, releasing the first Steely Dan album in 1972: Can't Buy a Thrill.

The band took their name from a fanciful dildo that appears in the beat novelist William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2001, where their official biography describes their 1970s albums as "wry, nuanced and hyper-literate" that are"highly regarded by connoisseurs of pop hooks, jazz harmony and desiccating wit".

After a long hiatus, the band reunited in the late 1990s to record its first studio album in 20 years, according to the Steely Dan website. That album, Two Against Nature, would go on to win Album of the Year in 2000 at the Grammy Awards.

Becker missed concerts earlier in the year as he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure, Fagen told Billboard.