Personalities | Jason Becker | A True Hero | Guitar Heroes

Jason Becker, born in 1969, is an American neo-classical metal guitarist and composer whose steady rise to the top of the guitar world was cut short by illness.

Becker was born and raised in Richmond, California. In high school, he performed Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Black Star’ with his band at a talent show. At 16, he formed Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. Produced by Mike Varney, the duo released Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988, touring the US and Japan in support. By 1989, Becker was a solo act, having recorded Perpetual Burn on his own in 1988.

At the peak of his abilities, Becker was known as a shredder with exceptional technique who demonstrated his mastery at clinics. He studied the works of violinist Nicolò Paganini, arranging the composer’s Fifth Caprice, and performing it in an instructional guitar video. Becker’s compositions feature high-speed scalar and arpeggio passages.

At 20, Becker replaced Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band. While recording A Little Ain’t Enough in 1989 and preparing for a tour, Becker began to feel limpness in his left leg. He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and given a grim prognosis. Becker finished the album, but quickly lost the ability to perform onstage. As the disease progressed, Becker turned to composing, using a keyboard after he was unable to use both hands, and controlling a computer system – eventually with his eyes – as his mental acuity remained unaffected by the disease.

In 1996, Becker released Perspective, an instrumental album composed by him (with the exception of Bob Dylan’s song ‘Meet Me In The Morning’). The writing of the music had begun before ALS completely crippled his abilities. Later, Becker released Raspberry Jams (1999) and Blackberry Jams (2003), collections of demos and alternative versions of songs that were later re-worked and released on his albums. Two tribute albums, Warmth In The Wilderness (I and II), featuring guitarists Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman and others, have been released, with profits aiding Becker with his medical expenses. Becker’s Collection (2008) featured three new songs as well as previously unreleased material, while Boy Meets Guitar: Volume One Of The Youngster Tapes (2012) contains some of Becker’s home recordings from his teenage years.

Essential Recordings

Cacophony: Speed Metal Symphony

Solo: Perpetual Burn

David Lee Roth: A Little Ain’t Enough

Solo: Perspective

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