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Walter Becker - 1950-2017: A Tribute

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 16 / 9 / 2017

Walter Becker - 1950-2017: A  Tribute


In memory of Walter Becker of Steely Dan who died earlier this month, Carl Bookstein looks back philosophically on the impact of Steely Dan on his own life.

I am remembering Walter Becker, feeling the loss. The song 'Reelin' in the Years' had to be the favourite. Back in freshman year of my Ann Arbor, Michigan college days, Steely Dan’s 'Greatest Hits' was high on the playlist, as I taped cassette after cassette on my roommate’s excellent stereo. This was a poignant time for music in my life, which included discovering the Grateful Dead, a solid healing dose of the Band, as well as a plentiful amount of Elvis Costello. My taste was varied, but there was definitely a place in my heart for Steely Dan. 'Aja', with 'Deacon Blues', 'Peg' and 'Home at Last', would become my Steely Dan favourite album, followed by 'The Royal Scam' with the great'“Kid Charlemagne'. The crazy thing is I had just been thinking a lot about Steely Dan lately. I guess it’s been for the past year now. They came through Detroit where I now am based about a year ago, and I noticed and really wanted to go see them live. A good friend, however, had already bought tickets for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra playing the music of U2 for that same night. I felt conflicted, but had to honour the previous commitment. Somehow I have kept having Steely Dan thoughts ever since. I was determined to see them live at the next chance, even though they are still in my mind this studio creation about recorded production greatness, rather than a live band. Somehow though in the past year, seeing Steely Dan live became the essence of my “Bucket List.” I don’t have much of a bucket list. I have seen a ton of concerts. I have lived as a skier in the mountains of Colorado and Idaho, as well as by the sea in San Diego and Los Angeles. Seeing Steely Dan live became this overriding thought of this one thing I hadn’t done. I even somehow just this past month in August bought a CD of their album 'Pretzel Logic' which opens with the hit 'Rikki Don’t Lose That Number'. I will never see them live now. I guess that is okay. They are not a band whose archives I am so well versed in. I only know well a handful of their albums. But it is uncanny to me how much I have been thinking about them of late. They were even scheduled for a concert coming up in October across the bridge from Detroit in Windsor, Canada. I did not have tickets, but I was considering it. I feel unquestionably that they were a great band that touched my life. To me both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were geniuses. I will never see them live, but will investigate their catalogue in greater depth. But somehow my whole sense of a bucket list is lost. It is strange. Photos by Philamonjaro www.philamonjaro.com

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Photoscapes (2017)
Walter Becker - Photoscapes
L. Paul Mann photographs the late Walter Becker at a Steely Dan show at Coachella in 2015.

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