Before we get started I would like to thank my friend invisible_man
, because without his help I wouldn't finish this column. He and all the other users on the UG
Contribution forum were a great help. Enjoy.
is without a doubt one of the most incredibly talented guitarists and musicians to have appeared since the invention of the electrical guitar. His story is one of the most tragic and inspiring in the world of music and one that receives far too little attention (no UG column about him already???). So without further ado: The History of Jason Becker
Born on July 22, 1970, Jason
was first introduced to the guitar at the age of 5. Both his father (also an artist) and uncle were guitarists from whom he was able learn quite rapidly, becoming an excellent musician at an early age.
Even at a young age we would reportedly practice for over 10 hours a day to the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen. He was also heavily influenced by various world music, and like friend and fellow ex-Cacophony band member Marty Friedman, Jason's compositions often feature exotic and unusual scales. By the time he was in the sixth grade Jason was already playing local coffee houses and school dances.
In high school Jason was introduced to Marty Friedman
with whom he shared similar musical tastes and extraordinary musical talent. In 1986 the duo formed speedmetal band Cacophony, releasing their first album (Speed Metal Symphony) in 1987, at the age of only 17. Hailed as a masterpiece, Speed Metal Symphony features some of the most incredible, fast, complex and melodic guitar playing ever recorded. Following the release of a second album in 1988 (Go Off!) which proved a complete commercial failure, Cacophony disbanded.
Also in 1988, Jason released his first solo album, Perpetual Burn
, a must-have for any shred guitar fan, full of the aggressive, classical-influenced (Paganini, in particular was a major influence) harmony, counterpoint and sweep picking that is Jason's signature style.
In 1990, at the age of 20, Jason was offered Steve Vai
's place in the David Lee Roth
band. With David Lee Roth he recorded A Little Ain't Enough, which is largely considered to be David's best solo album. Jason's career had never looked better, until disaster struck. What began as a slight weakness in his left leg was soon diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative nerve disease. His doctored estimated that he had at most 5 years of life left. Although he ignored the diagnosis for quite awhile, taking it as a temporary setback that would soon clear up, by the time recording of the album finished Jason's ability to play guitar had diminished to the point where he had to depend almost entirely on the tremolo bar for vibrato.
Now unable to play guitar, Jason
moved to his parents' home. There, he found refuge in spirituality, which helped him come to terms with his condition. He places considerable credit for his prolonged life on Ammachi, his guru and on the teachings of Yogananda, which he follows. Supported by loving friends and family he began to compose through his computer and released an album of original material (played by other musicians), Perspective, in 1996. Since that time his condition has stabilized and two albums of demo-tape material were released, The Raspberry Jams in 1999 and The Blackberry Jams
in 2003. There have also been unconfirmed mentions of a movie about his life in the works. To this day, Jason continues to write music out of his home in Glendale, California although currently he is focusing most of his energy on spiritual healing and writing.
Speed Metal Symphony (1987) with Cacophony
Go Off! (1988) with Cacophony
Perpetual Burn (1988)
A Little Ain't Enough (1991) with David Lee Roth
Guitar's Practicing Musicians: Volume 2 (1991) rare compilation CD featuring numerous established guitarists
The Raspberry Jams (1999)
The Blackberry Jams (2003)
A number of Jason Becker tribute albums have also been released, notably Warmth in the Wilderness Vol. I and II.
Becker's official site (very informative, lots of content, lots of great articles).
"If you have control over your mind, you can do anything." - Jason Becker