In September, the world lost Walter Becker, co-founder, guitarist, bassist and co-songwriter of Steely Dan, but no cause of death was given at the time. Today, months after Becker’s death, his wife Delia shared a letter to Steely Dan fans revealing the illness he succumbed to: “an extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer.”
Becker missed a series of Steely Dan concerts in the weeks prior to his death, which his bandmate Donald Fagan attributed to him “recovering from a procedure.” However, in his wife’s statement, she explains that he was actually undergoing an “intense regimen of chemotherapy at Sloan Kettering” during that time. He was diagnosed with the cancer during a routine medical check-up, and died less than four months after it was detected.
She continues, “It’s important to me, as it was to Walter, that you all know he never intended to keep anyone in the dark about his condition. He just ran out of time much sooner than any of us thought possible.” She thanked fans for the “tsunami of tributes and remembrances” that have poured out since his death.
Fagan also previously demonstrated the dedication he has to Steely Dan fans in the touching statement he wrote about his departed bandmate, saying, “I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.” He made good on that promise, and recently finished up a tour in October.
Read Delia Becker’s letter in full below (via Rolling Stone), beneath a 1974 Steely Dan performance from the Paste Cloud, and read Paste’s tribute to the late Walter Becker here. You can also watch Steely Dan perform “Book of Liars” in memory of Becker here, and listen to what was probably the greatest Steely Dan show ever here.
As Walter Becker’s wife of many years, I wanted to share with his fans some information regarding his death that has not previously been reported. I realize this is overdue, and I hope you will understand why. For me personally, his death was a devastating blow, as I know it was for many of you. I am just beginning to emerge from its heartbreaking impact.
Walter died in the course of being treated for an extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer. The cancer was detected during one of his annual medical checkups and its presence came as a grim surprise to Walter, his doctors and to me. It seemed to have come out of nowhere and had spread with terrifying speed.
Walter chose an intense regimen of chemotherapy at Sloan Kettering though, between the cancer’s aggressiveness and the overwhelming toxicity resulting from the chemotherapy treatments, Walter died less than four months after the cancer was detected.
Walter passed peacefully in our New York City home, surrounded by his family, his music, and a blustery rainstorm — one of his favorite sounds — blowing outside the window. In keeping with his wishes, he was cremated without ceremony or memorial in New York City.
Understandably, Walter wanted privacy during the course of his illness and he hoped for recovery. He wanted to be able to return to the stage and once again perform for his fans. It’s important to me, as it was to Walter, that you all know he never intended to keep anyone in the dark about his condition. He just ran out of time much sooner than any of us thought possible.
The tsunami of tributes and remembrances that have followed Walter’s passing has been deeply moving. Even his “Number 1 Fan” — me — would not have predicted anything close to the depth and breadth of public expressions from those whose lives were enriched by Walter — by his talent, his kindness, and his skill at inspiring some wicked fun.
Thank you, everyone, for helping me and his loved ones know that Walter’s mark on the world — and on all of you — will not soon fade.