Steely Dan Drummer Details Donald Fagen’s Struggle After Losing Walter Becker

After Walter Becker’s passing, Donald Fagen faced the challenge of navigating the band’s future without his close friend. In a recent interview with The Bob Lefsetz Podcast, Steely Dan’s drummer, Keith Carlock, shed light on the dynamics within the band following Becker’s passing.

Becker passed away from complications of aggressive esophageal cancer on September 3, 2017, in Manhattan, New York City.

Carlock discussed the absence of Becker and talked about the relationship between Fagen and the musician. According to the drummer, there is one reason that Steely Dan now continues to make music is as follows:

“It’s a huge dynamic that’s missing. I guess all I can say is it’s doable because Donald is the singer. It’s doable that we can keep going or that Donald wants to keep the band going. It works, but obviously it’s not the same. They had such an incredible relationship.

It was always fun just to see how they would bounce ideas off each other, and half the time, it was over our heads, you know, just following their sense of humor, their references, and just having that background together, growing up together. It was cool to see that.”

The drummer also acknowledged how challenging it must be for Fagen to be onstage without Becker:

“And I’m sure it must be weird for Donald to be up there without his partner of all those years. I can’t imagine that. But it’s cool, the music is what matters, and the fact that Donald is wanting to keep it going. It’s a beautiful thing for everyone.”

Despite the challenges, Fagen expressed a desire to continue with Steely Dan. Initially, he contemplated retiring the band’s name out of respect for Becker, but based on advice from promoters, he decided to keep it.

The road ahead was not without its obstacles. Following Becker’s death, his widow and estate entered into a legal battle with Fagen over the band’s shares. At the heart of this dispute was an agreement from 1972 that stipulated band members leaving or passing away would relinquish their shares to the surviving members.

The band, however, honored their commitment to perform shortly after Becker’s death, including tours in North America and Europe. In tribute to Becker, several concerts featured his solo song ‘Book of Liars,‘ with Fagen taking on the lead vocals. More recently, in July 2023, the Eagles announced Steely Dan as a special guest for their ‘The Long Farewell’ tour.

You can listen to the full podcast below.