Walter Becker, the guitarist/songwriter and cofounder of Steely Dan, died on Sept. 3 of an unspecified illness. He was 67. His passing was confirmed by a post on his official website, which simply displayed two images of the musician in his childhood and in later life along with the dates "feb. 20 1950 -- sept. 03 2017." Becker and Donald Fagen formed Steely Dan, taking the name of a dildo mentioned in William S. Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch, after the pair moved to California in the early 1970s. They had met in 1967 at Bard College in upstate New York, where they played in amateur bands whose material included everything from jazz to rock to pop to progressive rock. In L.A., they met independent producer Gary Katz who enlisted them as staff songwriters at ABC/Dunhill Records, and who hatched the idea of what would become Steely Dan. Becker, born on Feb. 20, 1950 in Queens, played both guitar and bass in Steely Dan, while also contributing backing vocals. Along with lead vocalist and keyboardist Fagen, the two remained Steely Dan's only core members throughout their career. Less a band than a concept, Steely Dan became one of the most sophisticated, successful and mysterious pop outfits of the Seventies. The band, which in early incarnations also included guitarist Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder, keyboardist David Palmer and guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, combined pop hooks with jazz harmonies, complicated time changes and cryptic, often highly ironic lyrics, to form its own unique sound. It's debut, Can't Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972 and yielded two hit singles, "Do It Again" (No. 6), and "Reeling in the Years" (No. 11). The album sold well and was hailed by critics, but Becker, Fagen and Katz were put off by a singles-oriented audience, and the followup, 1973's Countdown to Ecstasy, perhaps consciously contained no hit singles. On their next effort, 1974's Pretzel Logic, the band were joined by singer/keyboardist Michael McDonald, who sang mostly backup vocals. That album featured a top five hit, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," and more pronounced jazz leanings. Steely Dan then retired from touring and became a studio-only outfit, releasing Katy Lied in 1974 with its minor Top 40 hit, "Black Friday." 1976's Royal Scam, which sold relatively well, featured some of Becker and Fagen's most acerbic lyrics, but it was 1977's Aja that would become recognized as their masterpiece, a seven-song tour de force of FM favorites featuring session work by such expert sidemen as Wayne Shorter and Lee Ritenour. Aja went Top Five within three weeks of its release and became the band's first platinum album. After releasing the long-awaited followup, Gaucho, in 1980, Becker and Fagen announced they were going their separate ways, but reunited in 1993 to resurrect Steely Dan. They released two more albums -- the most recent being 2003's Everything Must Go -- while also resuming touring duties in recent years. During his hiatus from Steely Dan, Becker produced such artists as Rickie Lee Jones and China Crisis, and handled production work for the New Age label Windham Hill the jazz label Triloka. He also released two solo albums, 11 Tracks of Whack (1994) and Circus Money (2008). Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, taking the opportunity at the ceremony to take questions from the audience. Becker overcame substance-abuse problems in the 1980s after his girlfriend died from an overdose, with her mother claiming he fostered the young woman's drug problem and attempting to sue him. Becker was absent at both of Steely Dan's performances during the July 2017 Classic West and Classic East concerts due to an unspecified illness. In August, Fagen said in an interview that his longtime collaborator was "recovering from a procedure," but didn't elaborate further. In a statement published on RollingStone.com, Donald Fagen paid tribute to his dear friend and bandmate in a thoughtful lengthy post, which included: "Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967... He was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny... His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while. In the eighties, when I was putting together the NY Rock and Soul Review with [my wife] Libby, we hooked up again, revived the Steely Dan concept and developed another terrific band. I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band." - Billboard/Rolling Stone, 9/3/17.
Irish rockers U2 invited Patti Smith onstage at their Sept. 3 concert at Detroit's Ford Field to jam on the band's The Joshua Tree finale "Mothers of the Disappeared." Introducing the punk poetess at the end of the song, frontman Bono told the audience that "There is no one to compare. We don't have anyone to compare with Patti Smith. We wouldn't have written The Joshua Tree without her. What an honor it is to have her on the stage." It was the opening night of U2's Joshua Tree Tour 2017, as it celebrates the 30th anniversary of the acclaimed 1987 LP. Although a New Yorker, Smith has close ties to the Motor City, living in the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores from 1980-96 while married to the late MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and giving birth to her two children there. - Billboard, 9/4/17...... '70s soul singer Gloria Gaynor has rewritten the lyrics to her inspirational 1979 No. 1 smash "I Will Survive" to honor the victims of Harvey. "The lyrics just came flowing out in about five minutes," Gaynor said in an interview with CNN. Gaynor's charitable website, IWillSurvive.org, is also offering a line of custom Texas-themed "I Will Survive" T-shirts, with proceeds going to the state's Salvation Army relief efforts. In related news, Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell issued a press release on Sept. 1 with a pledge to donate $1 million dollars towards the relief effort for those affected by the recent devastating Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The couple said the money will go to help smaller towns in the area surrounding Houston, with medical emergencies and restoration of homes given top priority. - Stereogum.com, 9/1/17...... Tom Jones tweeted on Sept. 2 that his fall tour will be delayed "following medical advice," without providing further details about why the decision was made. The 77-year-old Welsh crooner previously announced he would launch a lengthy U.S. tour in Pennsylvania on Sept. 6, but now the tour has been postponed until May and June of 2018. Jones, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006, added his "sincere apologies" to his American fans who were planning to attend the shows. - AP, 9/2/17...... Pattie LaBelle was honored with a BMI Icon Award on Aug. 31 during the performing rights organization's annual R&B/Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. LaBelle's five-decade career was toasted by such artists as Grammy winner BeBe Winans (who sang "On My Own," LaBelle's Hot 100 No. 1 duet with Michael McDonald), Ledisi (who sang "Lady Marmalade"), Avery Sunshine, Kierra Sheard and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard. After being called to the stage by Ledisi at the end, LaBelle surprised the audience with an impromptu performance of "Over the Rainbow." Previous BMI Icon Award honorees include Nile Rodgers, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, James Brown and Snoop Dogg. - Billboard, 9/1/17...... Robert Plant has previewed a second track from his upcoming solo album, Carry Fire, titled "Bones of Saints." More traditionally rocking than the previously shared track, "The May Queen," "Bones of Saints"' rics seem to nod at the current political situation, with lines about "guns, fences and fires in the sky" over a shuffling rockabilly beat and, of course, Plant's signature plaintive wail. - Spin.com, 9/1/17...... A Chuck Berry tribute concert planned for the 2017 LouFest in the pioneering rock & roller's hometown of St. Louis will be headlined by artists including Dave Matthews Band, Cage the Elephant, members of The Roots, and Britt Daniel of Spoon. Dubbed "Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry!," the all-star tribute will take place Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. on the festival's Bud Light Stage. The concert has the blessing of Berry's family, which is using the occasion to announce the formation of the Chuck Berry Foundation, which will focus causes in the arts and music education. Concert organizers say the Berry tribute will "ultimately become an everlasting piece of the festival for years to come." Berry died on March 18 at the age of 90. The LouFest 2017 is set for Forest Park at a new event space adjacent to the historic Muny Amphitheater. - Billboard, 9/1/17...... Several artists who recorded for the legendary Stax Records participated in a 50th anniversary tribute to the famed 1960's Stax/Volt Records tour, which took the U.K. and Europe by storm in 1967, as part of the 2017 BBC Proms season at London's Royal Albert Hall on Sept. 1. From that tour, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd and Sam Moore all took part in the concert, along with Stax labelmate William Bell. The concert took place as Stax continues the year-long Stax 60 commemoration of the company's 1957 inception. "It was a family at Stax," Cropper noted before the concert. "We were like brothers and sisters, and we worked together for the same purpose, to get hit records for everybody." - Billboard, 9/1/17...... Bruce Springsteen has added 10 weeks to his upcoming Broadway residency at the Walter Kerr Theatre, which is set to get officially underway on Oct. 12. Springsteen announced on Aug. 31 he will perform five shows a week beginning Oct. 3, and his run is now scheduled through Feb. 3. The extension announcement was made on Aug. 30, the same day tickets for "Springsteen on Broadway" went on sale exclusively through Ticketmaster Verified Fan, a new technology that aims to combat bots and get tickets into the hands of real fans who intend to go to the event. The entire initial 10-week run sold out within the day, with tickets hitting the secondary market shortly afterward -- some offered at up to nearly $10,000 a seat. "I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible," stated Springsteen when he officially announced the run. "I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind." - The Hollywood Reporter, 8/31/17...... On Aug. 31, Elton John remembered the 20th anniversary of the untimely death of Princess Diana, who perished in 1997 after being involved in a car crash in a Paris tunnel. "20 years ago today, the world lost an angel #RIP," Sir Elton posted on Instagram, including a photo of the pair together. John, who was good friends with Diana, reworked his 1973 song "Candle In The Wind" in her memory. He performed it at her funeral and released it as a charity single that has gone on to sell more than 33 million copies worldwide. - New Musical Express, 8/31/17...... A note written by Jimi Hendrix to an "awestruck" British fan 50 years ago is set to be auctioned this fall. The legendary axman gave the then 19-year-old Anthea Connell the message written on the back of a pack of guitar strings at a concert in March 1967. "To Anthea -- Love and kisses to you forever," Hendrix wrote, adding "I wish I could really talk to you. Stay sweet, Jimi Hendrix." "I'd love to tell you we had a deep and meaningful conversation -- I must have mumbled something," Connell told the BBC. "I was totally awestruck. Jimi Hendrix was a complete icon." Conwell is now selling the note, which is framed with autographs from Hendrix band members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, at Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire. It will go on sale on Oct. 23 and is expected to fetch between £2,000 and £3,000. - New Musical Express, 8/31/17...... Comedian Shelley Berman, the wildly popular "sit-down" comic of the late 1950s and '60s, died on Sept. 1 at his home in Bell Canyon, Calif., after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 92. Mr. Berman was a standout in a golden era of comedy that included other observational masters like Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Bob Newhart. The Chicago native trained as a serious actor before jumping into comedy as a nightclub performer. His signature bit was to sit cross-legged on a bar stool, act as if he were on the telephone and improvise long, complicated, one-sided conversations. His Inside Shelley Berman album, a live record released in 1959, became the first comedy album to go gold (reaching sales of 500,000 units) and was the first non-musical recording to win a Grammy Award. The Chicago-born Mr. Berman's acting credits include The Best Man (1964), when he played a guy who has some dirt on presidential candidate Cliff Robertson, and on the small screen, he appeared in a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone as the misanthropic Archibald Beechcroft, who wills everyone in the world to be just like him (to his eventual dismay). More recently, he appeared as a hilariously senile judge on Boston Legal. He also showed up on episodes of Peter Gunn, Bewitched, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Night Court, MacGyver, Grey's Anatomy and Hawaii Five-0, among others. For more than 20 years, Mr. Berman taught humor writing at USC. In 2013, his collection of poetry, To Laughter With Questions, was published. - The Hollywood Reporter, 9/1/17...... Author Jimmy McDonough, who previously penned the bestselling Neil Young biography Shakey, released an Al Green biography entitled Soul Survivor on Aug. 29. The book, the first in-depth biography of Green, chronicles the legendary singer's road from gospel to secular and back again, and also uncovers the story of his label, Hi Records. McDonough conducted countless in-depth interviews with major players in Green's story, some speaking for the very first time. - De Capo Press, 8/31/17...... Richard Anderson, the tall, handsome actor best known for costarring simultaneously in the popular 1970s television shows The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, died of natural causes at age 91 on Aug. 31. Mr. Anderson was best known to TV viewers as Oscar Goldman, Lee Majors' boss at the secret government spy agency the astronaut went to work for after becoming a cyborg. The Six Million Dollar Man began as a TV movie in 1973 and when it proved a hit it was turned into a weekly series the following year. Its popularity led to the 1976 spinoff show, The Bionic Woman, starring Lindsay Wagner. Mr. Anderson took on the Oscar Goldman role in that show, too, sometimes appearing from week to week in both series. "Richard became a dear and loyal friend, and I have never met a man like him... He loved his daughters, tennis and his work as an actor," Lee Majors said in a statement, adding the two first met when they filmed several episodes of another hit television show, the 1960s western The Big Valley. Mr. Anderson was also a frequent guest on TV series and had regular roles on Bus Stop, Perry Mason, Dan August and The Fugitive. Other television credits included Slattery's People, Dr. Kildare, The Virginian, The Rifleman, Bonanza, Mannix and The Mod Squad. He is survived by three daughters, Ashley Anderson, Brooke Anderson and Deva Anderson. - AP, 8/31/17...... Skip Prokop, drummer/vocalist with seminal Canadian rock/jazz ensemble Lighthouse, died on Aug. 30 from heart complications. He was 73. Formerly with The Paupers, Hamilton, Ont. native Prokop went on to be the band leader with Lighthouse in 1968 along with keyboardist Paul Hoffert and guitarist Ralph Cole. Known as Canada's answer to Chicago, Lighthouse launched as a 13-piece, rock/funk/jazz group making their debut at Toronto's Rockpile on May 14, 1969. One of their first gigs was at New York's Carnegie Hall and they also played Bill Graham's Fillmore East and Filmore West during that first year. They won the Juno Award for Top Canadian Group three consecutive years in 1972-73 and 74. After three relatively unsuccessful albums on RCA, Lighthouse finally clicked as a recording group when, after enlisting Bob McBride as lead vocalist, they recorded One Fine Day on GRT/Evolution Records in 1971 earning North American radio exposure for the title track (No. 24 on the U.S Billboard charts) and enjoyed equal exposure with "Hats Off To The Stranger." They enjoyed further success with "Sunny Days," but when McBride failed to show up for recording sessions for their 1972 release, Can You Feel It, producer Jimmy Ienner convinced both Prokop and Cole to split the vocals and the album was released with "Pretty Lady" charting as a hit single. After splitting up in 1976, Lighthouse staged a number of reunions with Prokop also venturing out to be a deejay and also formed a Christian rock/funk band called Mercy Train. Prokop, Hoffert and Cole relaunched Lighthouse in 1992 as a 10-member unit and have continued to tour, appearing on the Moody Blues' Cruise Ship event in 2014. - AP, 8/31/17...... British singer-songwriter and guitarist Michael "Mick" Softley, a figurehead during the Sixties British folk scene who worked with performers such as Donovan, Mac MacLeod and Maddy Prior, died on Sept. 1. He was 78. Donovan covered two of Softley's songs ("Goldwatch Blues" and "The War Drags On") on his early recordings. - 8/31/17.