Walter Becker, the co-founder and guitarist of the influential rock duo Steely Dan, died on Sunday at the age of 67.
His death was announced on his website, alongside an image of him as a child next to one of him as an adult holding a guitar. With no other details mentioned, it is unclear what the cause of his death was.
Becker had missed two recent Steely Dan performances, according to Billboard. At the time, the group’s lead vocalist and keyboardist Donald Fagen told Billboard Becker was “recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”
The duo first began collaborating while students at Bard College in New York in the late 1960s. “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 wrote in a statement in the Rolling Stone.
They eventually moved to Los Angeles when they scored a recording contract, and went on to release their first Steely Dan album, “Can’t Buy a Thrill,” in 1972. Over the next decade, the duo released six albums that landed in the Top 20 and three singles in the Top 10, including “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ In the Years” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”
Becker was born in 1950 and grew up in Queens, New York, where he began as a saxophonist then switched to guitar while a teenager. On Sunday, Fagen wrote that Becker had “a very rough childhood” but grew up to be “smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter.”
“He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny,” Fagen wrote. “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.”
After success in the 1970s, the duo took a 20-year hiatus, during which Becker released a solo album called “11 Tracks of Whack” in 1994.
Eventually Steely Dan reunited for another album called “Two Against Nature” in 2000. That album then won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Their last album together was 2003’s “Everything Must Go,” and Becker’s last solo album was 2008’s “Circus Money.”