Two months after Steely Dan guitarist and co-founder Walter Becker‘s death at 67, on Wednesday (Nov. 15) his widow Delia Becker released an emotional statement discussing her late husband’s health struggles and her own difficulty in dealing with his passing.
“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,” she wrote in a statement provided to Billboard. “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.” At the time of his passing on Sept. 3 no details were released about Becker’s cause of death.
The guitarist, who met partner Donald Fagen at New York’s Bard College in 1967, was absent at both of Steely Dan’s performances during July’s Classic West and Classic East concerts due to an unspecified illness. In August, Fagen told Billboard that his bandmate was “recovering from a procedure,” but didn’t elaborate further.
“Walter died in the course of being treated for an extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer,” Delia Becker revealed. “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.”
Delia Becker said her husband died peacefully at their home in New York City, “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 note thanks fans for the “tsunami” of tributes and remembrances that have come in the past two months, calling them “deeply moving.” As his “number 1 fan,” she wrote that even she could 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.”
Becker’s two solo albums — 1994’s 11 Tracks of Whack and 2008’s Circus Money — have scanned 74,000 units, with Whack garnering the most at 60,000 units. Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.