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Jason Becker's Site

Jason Becker

About Jason Becker

Raised in the Bay Area, Becker was taught how to play by his father, a visual artist and classical guitarist who had trained under a student of Andrés Segovia. At age five, Becker received his first guitar and began learning Bob Dylan songs. (Both Dylan and classical music were already the youngster’s favorites.) By nine he was playing Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Roy Buchanan as well. His mastery of “Further Up the Road” was so impressive for a 13-year-old that Becker’s parents found the money to buy him a black-and-white Fender Stratocaster, just like Clapton’s. As a freshman in high school, when Becker heard Van Halen’s debut album, he was so blown away that he spent hours every day trying to decipher Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo, “Eruption,” as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s song “Lenny” – both of which inspired him to begin writing his own pieces.

In 1986, at the age of 16, Becker sent performance tapes of himself to Mike Varney, the head of the guitar-oriented Shrapnel Records label. Varney in turn introduced him to Marty Friedman, whom Becker calls “the greatest and most original guitarist I had ever heard. He became my biggest musical influence. He taught me harmonies and counterpoint lines to his songs.” They formed the band Cacophony, and over the next several years recorded the albums, Speed Metal Symphony and Go Off! Becker also began a solo career with his classic, Perpetual Burn.

On Mother’s Day 1989, Becker was awakened in the middle of the night by “a huge painful cramp in my left calf muscle. The next day it was still tight and also feeling lazy, like after you’ve done a strenuous work out and your muscles just feel tired. I spent the next few months trying to get rid of that feeling by doing lots of stretches and jogging, and playing catch with the football whenever I could. But when I would play live shows, I’d get wiped out and hot. The lights, energy, and my jumping around almost made me nauseous.” It was directly after he returned from a solo tour in Japan that Becker learned Varney had recommended him to David Lee Roth’s drummer, Gregg Bissonette, who had called looking for candidates to replace Steve Vai. When Becker flew down for the audition, he was already limping, but didn’t think anything about it. His left hand was also getting weak, and the muscle between his thumb and index finger was visibly shrinking.

Becker has been the subject of numerous honors over the years. Among them, ABC News named him a “Person of the Week.” Lion Music produced two tribute CDs – called “Warmth in the Wilderness” – which featured various musicians performing Becker’s songs and pieces inspired by him. His music has been performed by the Diablo Ballet and at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and there have been several major benefits to help relieve the on-going financial burden of his disease.

In his autobiography, Crazy from the Heat, David Lee Roth wrote: "Trying to hire genius is like designing art by committee—damn near impossible. But I came so close you could feel the heat coming off of it, with a fellow named Jason Becker… His parents had been like Haight-Ashbury hippies. So instead of growing up listening to Ed Van Halen records and duplicating that, he had grown up listening to all the old classics I had, as per his parents—Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash. What a wealth of references in his playing... He had such a full, substantial, articulate sound, played through the simplest equipment—one amp head, one set of speakers, a foot pedal or two, all of it Dennis-the-Menaced together with spit and chicken wire. That kid could move air, man. And [he was] the kindest, gentlest, most flexible, absorbing, want-to-learn spirit that I’ve ever really worked with.”

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