Two months after Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly on September 3rd, his cause of death remained a mystery. However, in a letter to Steely Dan’s fans, Becker’s widow Delia reveals to Rolling Stone that her husband died following an “extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer.”
“For me personally, his death was a devastating blow, as I know it was for many of you,” Delia Becker wrote. “I am just beginning to emerge from its heartbreaking impact.”
In the weeks prior to Becker’s death, he missed Steely Dan’s Classic East and West concerts due to an unspecified ailment. “Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon,” Donald Fagen said at the time.
However, as Delia Becker writes, Walter was actually undergoing “an intense regimen of chemotherapy” at the time to combat the cancer, which “seemed to have come out of nowhere and had spread with terrifying speed.”
Just four months after his diagnosis, Becker died at his New York City home “surrounded by his family, his music, and a blustery rainstorm — one of his favorite sounds — blowing outside the window.”
Read Delia Becker’s full letter below:
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. 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.
Walter died in the course of being treated for an extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer. 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.
Walter passed peacefully in our New York City home, 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 tsunami of tributes and remembrances that have followed Walter’s passing has been deeply moving. Even his “Number 1 Fan” — me — would 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.