The late musician missed two Steely Dan performances during the recent Classic West and Classic East concerts in Los Angeles and New York, which also boasted appearances by the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers. At the time, Becker's bandmate and Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen told Billboard, "Walter's recovering from a procedure and hopefully he'll be fine very soon." Fagen did not elaborate further on Becker's ailment.
Following Becker's death, Fagen released a moving tribute to his longtime friend, stating how they met in 1967 as students at Bard College in New York. The duo later moved to California to form Steely Dan in 1972 alongside guitarists Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer.
In his statement, Fagen described Becker as "smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter," as well as "cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny."
Fagen also addressed Becker's "rough childhood," stating that "his habits got the best of him by the end of the '70s," leading the two to lose touch for a while. Fagen concluded by vowing to "keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band."
Becker and Fagen were known for blurring the lines of jazz, pop, rock and soul through Steely Dan and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
"I'm not interested in a rock/jazz fusion,” Becker told Rolling Stone in 1974. "That kind of marriage has so far only come up with ponderous results. We play rock & roll, but we swing when we play. We want that ongoing flow, that lightness, that forward rush of jazz."
"All our lyrics are calculated and literary," he continued, also noting that the band name is a sex-toy reference from William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch novel. "They are not personal documents. We use autobiographical material, but the autobiography is not what the lyrics are about."
"I don't expect anyone to understand me the way I understand myself," he added. "Whatever people get out of these songs, it's fine."