Weighing in on this week’s death of Walter Becker is Michael McDonald, who has more experience than many with the Steely Dan co-founder.
McDonald joined Steely Dan’s touring band during 1974 and appears on the group’s albums Katy Lied, The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho. McDonald, who went on to join the Doobie Brothers as well as start a solo career, also opened for and performed with Steely Dan during a summer tour in 2006.
He told Billboard that Becker’s death hit him hard:
“I was fairly shocked ’cause although I knew that he was having health issues, they were kind of ongoing for the last couple years. I really had no idea he was as ill…I remember hearing that for some reason he had left some of the dates on the Steely Dan tour, and that worried me. I think really the first thing that kind of hit me was I regretted that I didn’t pick up the phone and call and see how he was, ’cause Walter and I had been friends for all these years…(But) Walter wouldn’t be the guy who’d probably want to field a lot of phone calls concerning his health, so I just waited to hear something forward, and the next thing I heard is he passed away.”
McDonald adds that what he treasures most was getting to know Becker well as a person, away from the recording studio and stage:
“The greatest loss here is an amazingly talented man, but he was a kind and honest man and I don’t know how many people that I can use that description on that I know in the world. I never saw the guy not be kind to someone no matter how insignificant they might be in his life. He was always a kind person, and for as intelligent as he was and as, even as cynical as he could be about the world…he seemed to value every human being he ever met. And I think that says a lot about a person.”
Becker died on Sunday (September 3) at the age of 67 of undisclosed causes. McDonald releases a new solo album, Wide Open, on September 15.
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.