Remembering Walter Becker And The Unmistakable Steely Dan Sound
Meticulous. Clean and pristine. Call it the "Stainless Steel"-y Dan sound if you will.
Though Walter Becker may be gone he, like the increasing list of classic rock artists behind him, leaves behind a body of work that will live on to inspire musicians and music fans for generations to come.
I discovered Steely Dan on FM rock radio when I was a teen. Years later I heard the term "Jazz Rock" applied to them. To me Steely Dan was just another member of the large family of rock bands and artists I loved listening to. Don't get me wrong, though, I sure as heck knew the second one of their songs started that it was Steely Dan. That clean, crisp groove. The singular voice of Donald Fagan gliding over the beat.
I suppose if you have to put a label on it "Jazz Rock" is appropriate. Jazz musicians pride themselves on detail, meticulous detail. Every single note matters. There are no mistakes accepted. The musicians have to perform like a well-oiled machine and that was most definitely Steely Dan.
I know many who enjoy the music of Steely Dan like I do but I know one person who is a die-hard Steely Dan fan and that is one of my best friends Chuck Larose. I can remember cruising around in his car on a summer day with the windows rolled down and he'd pop in a Steely Dan cassette. Chuck could sing all the lyrics word for word and not just the "hit" songs either.
That's when you know you've done your job as an artist. When you've connected with people to the point that your art becomes a part of someone's daily life; a welcomed escape during difficult times or companion during the high times.
There are millions of people just like my friend Chuck who have connected with the music Becker created with Fagan under the Steely Dan name. Count me among the millions.
After hearing of Becker's passing Sunday I kicked back in my recliner and let my Steely Dan playlist roll until it ended. The next morning as I was driving out to Old Saybrook for a holiday getaway I played that same Steely Dan playlist the whole ride. I admit it. I can't kick the habit. Even after a nice big hit of Steely Dan I'll go back Jack and do it again...and again...and again...