Before you watch Johnny’s interview with Jason Becker, here’s what you should know about Jason…
In the late-1980s, Jason Becker was at the top of the world. A virtuosic young guitarist, he had already had an influential start to a promising career, touring with his heavy metal band Cacophony and being recognized the world-over as an up-and-coming metal guitar prodigy. Then only 20 years old, Jason transitioned his success into an even larger stage, becoming the guitarist for David Lee Roth’s post-Van Halen career and replacing the legendary Steve Vai.
But not long into his new gig, Jason began experiencing cramping and a subsequent limp in his left leg. During the recording of Roth’s album A Little Ain’t Enough (on which Jason not only played, but contributed to some songwriting duties), the limp worsened and he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was given only a couple of years to live.
Jason survived beyond the doctors’ expectations, but not without losing the ability to play guitar, walk, or even talk. In 1996, Jason’s father, Gary Becker, developed a simple, yet ingenious, method of communication using his eyes after Jason was no longer able to speak. With the letters of the alphabet laid out in a grid, Jason is able to spell out words by moving his eyes to the position of each letter. A translator who knows the chart is then able to vocalize the letters for him and help form the sentences. It was a breakthrough.
“It is faster than any computer I have tried,” says Jason with help from his father. “It is a life-saving thing. Without communication I would probably be gone.”
Today, Jason has lived with ALS for over 20 years and continues to write, compose music, and inspire.
“He’s a very busy man,” says Gary. “I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s still here – he has work to do and he still loves doing it. He became a spiritual inspiration to people. First he got letters every day from people saying what an inspiration he was musically and spiritually, and now he gets emails every day from all over the world, including people that are depressed [and] young people that want to commit suicide, and when they heard his story they said, ‘Man, if you can kick that I’m going to live my life in a more positive way.’”
Despite living with what most would categorize as a debilitating and devastating illness, Jason faces each day with purpose and a positive spirit. Although he has a very different life today than he had 20 years ago, he’s able to acknowledge where his creativity and inspiration come from – something ALS can never take away.
“I have adapted,” Jason says. “I guess I have accepted that my life is different than I had planned. And it is okay. . . . I guess [ALS] does rule my physical life for sure, but. . . it doesn’t rule my mind.”
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Transcript coming soon