I returned from a camping trip this weekend to learn of Walter Becker’s untimely death. For a certain kind of nerdy* kid growing up in the 70s (like, oh, I dunno…me), Becker served as a patron saint: he was an intellectual, a great musician, and a bitingly sarcastic lyricist. In other words, pretty much exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.
By the time I was out of junior high school—which corresponded with the breakup of Steely Dan—I had stopped listening. I figured that, like most things that strike your fancy at that age, I had outgrown Becker’s music. A few years ago, though, I bought Aja—followed quickly by everything else in Steely Dan’s catalogue. It was like I’d been reintroduced to an old friend, this time with a full understanding of the group’s musical genius and studio precision, rather than simply the camaraderie one feels for fellow “creatures of the margin and of alienation.”
My favorite of their albums is probably Aja, but, for some reason, I put on Pretzel Logic when I heard the news of Becker’s death, followed by Katy Lied and The Royal Scam. But it doesn’t really matter. Pick any Steely Dan record and listen—I mean really listen. If you’re unfamiliar with their oeuvre, you’ll be surprised by their depth and range; if, like me, you’d sort of forgotten about them, you’re in for a treat.
*I mean actual nerds, not today’s hipster nerd wannabes.