Walter Becker, the guitarist and songwriter who made suavely subversive pop hits out of slippery jazz harmonies and verbal enigmas in Steely Dan, his partnership with Donald Fagen, died on Sunday. He was 67.
His death was announced on his official website, which gave no other details. He lived in Maui, Hawaii.
Mr. Becker was unable to perform with Steely Dan this summer at Classic West and Classic East in Los Angeles and New York City, two stadium-size festivals of 1970s bands. Last month, Mr. Fagen told Billboard, “Walter’s recovering from a procedure and hopefully he’ll be fine very soon.”
As Steely Dan, Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen changed the vocabulary of pop in the 1970s with songs like “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Peg.” Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen were close collaborators on every element of a song: words, music, arrangement. “We think very much the same musically. I can start songs and Walter can finish them,” Mr. Fagen said in a 1977 interview.
Steely Dan’s musical surfaces were sleek and understated, smooth enough to almost be mistaken for easy-listening pop, and polished through countless takes that earned Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen a daunting reputation as studio perfectionists.