Although he’s currently fighting his former bandmate’s estate over the Steely Dan name, Donald Fagen had a friendly final visit with his late musical partner during the summer, before Becker’s death on September 3 in New York City.
Becker tells Rolling Stone’s Music Now podcast that he went to see Becker on a day off from his summer solo tour, “and I was really glad that I went. I could see he was really struggling. When I put a chair next to the bed, he grabbed my hand; It was something he had never done before. And we had a great talk…He was very weak but he was still very funny. I’m really glad I had those hours.”
Fagen reveals that Becker’s health problems became debilitating a few years ago, “especially after 2011-12. I think just being ill for so long he had a little bit of a personality change and he was much more isolated, and he kinda wasn’t that interested in working on Steely Dan records anymore…I did ask him once in awhile if he wanted to do something, and he’d usually say, ‘Yeah, sure,’ but then he wouldn’t call me or whatever. So it was obvious that he lost some of the enthusiasm.”
Fagen and Becker’s estate are currently in court over rights to the Steely Dan band name; Fagen maintains he owns it now by virtue of a 1972 agreement signed by all band members, while Becker’s estate contends that agreement became null and void after so many years of just the two of them comprising Steely Dan.
Fagen says in the podcast that he “would actually prefer to call it Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan Band or something like that” but maintains the band name at the insistence of concert promoters.
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.