Steely Dan’s Financial Crisis After Walter Becker’s Passing

Walter Becker was one of the founding members of Steely Dan, with Donald Fagen being the other. The two musicians had one of the most significant songwriting partnerships in music history after meeting while they were students at Bard College. From then on, the duo had a decade-long successful career until they broke up. Still, they couldn’t stay away from reuniting in 1993, which gave birth to two new albums, ‘Two Against Nature’ and ‘Everything Must Go.’

While they were enjoying their career, Steely Dan faced a tragedy in the spring of 2017. At his annual medical checkup, Becker was diagnosed with aggressive esophageal cancer. The musician underwent intense treatments, but his condition rapidly deteriorated. As a result, Becker could not join the band’s shows in the following months. Unfortunately, he passed away from the disease on September 3, 2017, at the age of 67, at his home.

After this devastating news, fans, family members, and Becker’s band mourned the death of their beloved friend. However, a lawsuit happened later that year when Becker’s widow and estate sued Donald Fagen, claiming that the estate should control half of the band’s shares.

As a result, Fagen filed a countersuit to his former bandmate’s estate. The musician argued that Steely Dan had documents from 1972 where the group members agreed on relinquishing the band’s shares to the surviving members after leaving or passing away.

Amid this lawsuit, Fagen spoke to Rolling Stone and said that his initial decision was to disband Steely Dan and continue with another name after his bandmate’s passing. Nevertheless, the band’s promoters persuaded him for commercial reasons, and he decided to keep the band. The reason behind this statement was most likely to show his actions regarding the case weren’t hostile.

Though it has been over five years since the lawsuit was filed, the legal battle over the band’s royalties continues. In September 2021, Fagen talked about the current state of the case to Tablet, saying, “There are probably thousands of lawyers fighting about that right now, as we speak. But more generally, these days, it’s all about streaming.”

Fans still don’t know if the case was closed since neither of the sides released a statement for the past year. It’s up to the judges whether Walter Becker’s family and estate deserve 50% of Steely Dan’s income or whether the documents from 1972 still apply to the case. As for the band’s current state, they haven’t released any new material besides their live albums. The recent activity on Steely Dan’s official website is a New Earth After Hours 2022 Tour merchandise.