RIP WALTER BECKER: HOME AT LAST
TRUE PLAYER LEAVES THE BUILDING
RIP: Walter Becker
The legendary player and composer Walter Becker stepped into The Next just today. This is sad news for all he knew and loved and YO CHING offers sincere condolences for your loss.
That said, this brother will be living on forever here in this bullshit we all still wrapped up in. YO CHING Wrexagram 53, Push It Along breaks down how YO CHING looks at the passing of such a legend:
"A True Player’s run is over. He die and fly away, up to The Heavens. Like birds flying South in winter.
Most birds flying in the city are dirty motherfuckers you ain’t want to touch. But some real nice birds pass through on their way South in winter. Sometimes they leave a feather on the ground. Brothers walking in the park find that shit. Those feathers are tight.
True Player who lived right leaves something beautiful behind him when he dies. Like them classic records brothers made back in the 70s. Real positive shit people still dance with today. Maybe the brothers who made those records are physically gone, but they left some beautiful shit behind. Helps people remember what’s right in the world."
-- YO CHING, WREXAGRAM 53, PUSH IT ALONG
Walter Becker was not just a Player. He was a True Player.
Every musician with some jazz or rhythm in their bag usually jump at the chance to play some Steely Dan. We here at YO CHING kick drums sometimes and nothing really feels better than rolling with Kid Charlemagne or doing the Purdie Shuffle on Home At Last. Speaking as a motherfucking drummer now, we would have to say the appeal is Feel. Feel is what a drummer does with time; the way they feel The Rhythm of Things when they play. How they bend the beat, touch it here, pull it back there, and let you know where things are, without telling you everything, all the time. That's Feel.
Most Rock and Roll really don’t have much Feel, to be particularly honest. Drumming motherfuckers just show up and bang. Some of them bang real damn good— True Players like Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, John Bonham, you know. But mostly they feel shit the same. Heavy on the 1, down on the 3, and chopping that 2 and 4 like Karate. Steely Dan brought the Feel of jazz into their production. Drummers on their tracks played tasty. That was some out shit nobody had tried before. They changed the game.
Really the musicianship on every Steely Dan drum track is so dialed that brothers can listen to it today and still find pieces to enhance their learning. That's the type of work True pLayers leave behind: that shit resonates and emanates. Every session player on those records was perfectly chosen. As producer, Becker brought in the best players out there: Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Jeff Porcaro and others. Those motherfuckers are masters of time and feel. They were produced to the peak of perfection, playing on tracks written to highlight their virtuosity. That’s due to the fact that a True Player—Walter Becker—was driving. With Mr. Fagen, his writing and producing partner, they rewrote rock with some motherfucking rhythmic literacy and sophistication.
Walter Becker was from Queens, New York.
Lot of great music has come from that borough. Louie Armstrong lived out that way, Run DMC kicked off from there, Simon And Garfunkle grew up there, and Nasty Nas went worldwide coming out of Queens. That place has made some kings of the music world, for sure. Walter Becker was one of them. But he didn’t come up real happy. In the tribute letter Donald Fagen wrote to his former musical partner, he says that Becker came from an abusive childhood. “Like a lot of kids from fractured families,” Donald Fagen says, “[Becker] had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art.”
True Players do that, see. You put them through a run of ILL SHIT, they flip that into the positive. Brothers like that know how to fight and survive. They see through shit in a different way. They don’t just buy The Game and play it smiling. They know from the jump how ill shit can be. That puts them on the outside of things. In another interview with Steely Dan, those brothers said that being alienated really isn’t a bad thing. Especially when crab asses running streets. Why would you want to belong to some bullshit? Today people are really all about being virtually Liked my motherfuckers they hardly know. But people on the fringes don’t really get liked much. Especially at first. But If they are real talented, catch their breaks, and ride them right while they happen, True Players from the outside can angle their sensibility into culture and flip shit in new directions. Nobody from the middle of things ever really break through with new shit. It’s always them motherfuckers off to the side. Steely Dan is legendary now, but they started off as some out brothers off to the side, doing shit real different.
In honor and love for what they accomplished, we at YO CHING have been playing Steely Dan all day long here in Asia. (Or Aja, should we say.) Because we grew up with this shit, it’s making us think about our own motherfucking mortality. We walking in the park right now, but one day every brother have to fly South or North when the run is up. And really, True Players don’t have much time to work with. Your run is your run, then it’s done. Through most of that, life is just a bunch of motherfuckers up in your face, trying to hold you back or shut you out. But there are those moments. And there are those brothers. When those brothers catch those moments, they make magic. The work from True Players like Walter Becker make living through this shit worthwhile. They are the ones who leave something behind for the rest of us when they fly off. They remind us what’s right in the world, inspire the rest of us to PUSH IT ALONG and raise the game higher.
RIP Walter Becker. Thank you for the music you left for us. Who knows how many crab asses and ill brothers you fought in the jungle of the 1970s music industry to make your game get over. Thankfully, that bullshit is behind you. What’s in front of you has to be beautiful. You brought too much happiness to streets for shit not to be otherwise. Wherever you are, we hope you shufflin’. In your honor, here’s one of yours for the road…