Walter Becker, one of the two musicians who constituted Steely Dan, has died.
From its official founding in 1972, until Becker and Donald Fagen parted ways in 1981 — they reunited in the 1990s, mostly for touring purposes — Steely Dan operated at a remarkably high level of consistency, producing seven outstanding albums, that have stood up very well over the four (!) decades since.
I wouldn’t have guessed so at the time, as Becker and Fagen often flirted with a self-conscious attitude toward their work that sometimes threatened to tumble into outright self-parody. (Not for nothing is their music considered the Ur-text of the Yacht Rock genre). Yet the combination of their eclectic musical tastes and their legendary obsessiveness in the studio produced perhaps as much great music as any commercially successful 1970s band.
Looking back, it’s rather astounding that Becker was all of 22 years old when he and the 24-year-old Fagen unloaded the world weariness and acerbic cynicism of Can’t Buy a Thrill on the musical public.
This may not make sense to anyone else, but I always thought Steely Dan was the perfect rock (or “rock”) band to supply the score for a Stanley Kubrick movie, as their icy musical aesthetic was an ideal match for his cold cinematic eye.