Donald Fagen on Walter Becker: Sick for 5 Years

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Steely Dan in 1977: Walter Becker (l.) and Donald Fagen

While the 2017 death of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker came as a shock to fans of the band, to Donald Fagen, the band’s other core member—who is carrying on both with Steely Dan and with his solo career—the news could not have been totally unexpected. In a new interview posted on the website, Fagen was asked when he knew that his partner in the band was seriously ill.

“Walter was pretty ill for, maybe, at least five years,” Fagen told the Orillia Packet & Times. “He was dealing with some serious health problems, which he was valiantly fighting. But it caught up with him after a while.”

Fagen did not offer details on the nature of the illness that took Becker’s life on Sept. 3, 2017.

Fagen, who was on tour with Steely Dan through the end of October, added that he’d already noticed the profound loss when he took the stage without Becker. “During the soundcheck, we used to consult on the setlist every night,” Fagen said in the interview. “And now, I feel really unprepared. I’m just trying to figure it out myself. I’ll ask some of the other players in the band, but he had a certain way of looking at it that I really miss.”

Fagen himself has had a rough time of it following Becker’s death. Two days after announcing a new tour with the Steely Dan band, and 10 days after Becker had passed, Fagen canceled the remainder of his scheduled solo tour, citing an undisclosed illness. Fagen had been on the road with his other band, the Night Flyers, through Sept. 24.

Fans first noticed that something was up with Becker when he failed to participate in Steely Dan’s high-profile appearances at the Classic West and Classic East stadium concerts that took place over the summer. Fagen played those shows with the rest of the Steely Dan band, and did not make any statement at the time regarding Becker’s condition.

Watch Steely Dan perform “Reelin’ In the Years” on The Midnight Special in 1972

Related: From the Vaults – Conversations with Becker and Fagen

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. simpon
    #1 simpon 31 October, 2017, 06:19

    Just seen the Dan in London. poignant without Becker and Fagans brief, wry and hearfelt comments about his missing partner ( didn’t mention his name but of course we knew just who he meant) were beatifully pitched. The performance was as good as I had expected it to be. A bucket list concert for me and after 40 years of attending concerts one of the best in despite of its enourmodome venue.

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