“We want to do a little tribute right here,” Zac Brown told a crowd of nearly 30,000 fans on Sunday night, midway through his band’s performance at Hersheypark Stadium in southeastern Pennsylvania. “Mr. Walter Becker of Steely Dan passed away today, so we’re gonna do a little tribute to him right now.”
With that, Brown and company launched into an abbreviated version of “Reelin’ in the Years,” focusing on the song’s harmony-heavy chorus and signature guitar riff. It was a brief but touching performance, pulled together within hours of Becker’s death and serving as a one-off introduction to the band’s own hit, “Sweet Annie,” whose stacked vocal arrangement perhaps took a little inspiration from the layered compositions of Steely Dan.
Zac Brown Band wasn’t the only group to salute Becker this weekend. While opening for U2 in Detroit, Beck slipped a few measures of Steely Dan’s “Josie” into his performance of “Where It’s At.” Meanwhile, artists like Ryan Adams and Robyn Hitchcock paid tribute to the late songwriter via Twitter. First-time CMA Awards nominee Jason Isbell spoke up, too, tweeting, “I was once in a band that played only Steely Dan songs. It was hard and lots of fun. RIP Walter.”