Jason Becker – Legendary Guitarist and Composer

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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.”

Below is the video of Johnny interviewing Jason.


Download audio MP3 file (Right-click and choose “Save Target As…” or “Save File As…”)

Transcript coming soon

Comments

  1. Wow. Killer interview with a truly remarkable human being.

    Jason is somebody I watched closely when I was a young player and who I still, after all these years, can’t get enough of. He’s one of those one-off, break the mold type of people that you just can’t help but be drawn to for his amazing abilities not only as a musician, but as an inspiration.

    You can see how influential this man is by visiting any of his youtube videos. Players, young and old, still study his technique and try to mimic and capture some of that Becker style. Though, I suspect many probably retire their fiddles after watching him tear though some Perpetual Burn. :P

    This guy has done, and continues to do, so much for so many. Jason Becker truly is the baddest of badasses and a rock star to the core.

    Rock on, man!

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks for the comment, Dave… I just love this interview, and the way he basically said, “So, I’ll only live a few more years? Fuck that!”

  2. Jess C. says:

    I think I’m going to have to go back and post some of the bloopers from this interview. Not only is he badass, but Jason is flippin’ hilarious! This is definitely one of the interviews I was most looking forward to… Jason rocks!

    • Johnny says:

      Oh man, the bloopers are hilarious, and the delivery via their system just makes them better.

      Me: “I still can’t hear you… ”

      Gary: “Hmm, there’s nothing I see here… [To Jason] Can you think of anything?”

      Gary’s voice, speaking for Jason: “Y-E… yes. Y-E-L… yell.”

  3. Johnny says:

    Also, I’ll add that I think it’s so phenomenal that Jason has gotten such support from his family, fans, and friends. Gary is his voice, so he has to devote all that time and effort. His fans are off the hook supportive. And his rock & roll friends just held this huge, awesome gala called “Jason Becker’s Not Dead Yet” that got great reviews.

    Only true badassery can inspire that kind of dedication. I’ll bet Jason would say that despite what cynics would say, he’s truly blessed.

  4. Andrew says:

    Jason is truly inspiring. Let’s not forget his dad, though. If it wasn’t for him, a lot of what Jason is able to do wouldn’t be possible! A great example of a father and son team conquering the world!

    • Jess C. says:

      Absolutely. They told his mom to take him to a home and let him die. His parents wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t have it. I get goosebumps every time I think about that… Truly badass!

  5. Awestruck says:

    Badass is right! Just saw the documentary – wowwwww. My two teenagers watched their dad’s mom (their nana) die from ALS. Her dad died of it too. Now her brother has it and is going down. They’re smart; they know the genetics. They also have to watch me, their mom, deal with MS (alone, now that their father left). I keep thinking how screwed they got in the DNA neuro-pool and wonder what fears they have deep down. I still work and try to hold it together to show that MS, while a total p.i.a., won’t kill them if they end up with it. ALS on the other hand … But then there’s Jason. I don’t want or deserve any medals for keeping on keeping on b/c it’s my life. What it is, it is and I owe them some positivity. Giving up or in just isn’t an option nor is it my style. But ALS is so different from MS and so much harder to find good, hopeful words. Then there’s Jason. People use the word “inspirational” b/c I don’t think they (we) can’t think of a bigger one. I can only imagine how it fuels him to be surrounded by such love and loyalty and what a difference it makes. His family and friends are also absolute badasses! I have a piece of that fuel through my own family and friends, but nothing can touch what he has going on. I’m totally awestruck by my own thoughts right now … Jason’s life and story will help me demonstrate to my kids a hope on the ALS side of their genes that no common platitudes could ever have done. What a gift!

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