Legendary guitarist and composer Jason Becker, who has been living with ALS for more than 30 years talked in an interview with Grammy.com about the disease and shared news about his current health status.
Guitarist Jason Becker talks about living with ALS for the last 32 years:
“It has actually been 32 years now, since Mother’s Day [1989.] I first felt painful cramps in my left calf [that day.] I am doing pretty well lately, after a long period of not feeling great. Mechanical ventilation has a lot of complications, and I had a bunch of these. Those things are exhausting and zap me of energy and strength and some of them can be pretty scary. I have spent a lot of time meditating and working on healing. I can feel my strength and energy coming back.”
“So I am so grateful to be here, with the people I love, and I would say that is the thing that keeps me motivated and inspired to keep going. I have my moments of sadness and feeling like giving up. But I have gotten through so far, and I think it is all about love, including my love of life. Making music, feeling a sense of purpose, and the love and respect of my friends, fans, and peers, is also really motivating.”
What advice would you give to a younger musician who is struggling with a difficult health diagnosis and/or accessibility needs that may be impacting their ability to play or create music?
“You know, there are ways, and for each person, the answer is probably different. I have heard from many musicians with disabilities out there, and one thing they always say is that they have to create; it’s what they do and without it, they don’t feel a reason to live, so that is quite a motivator. They tell me they are inspired by me and my music. But I feel the same about them. I think that creative drive brings about solutions to obstacles. It is always amazing to me to see what can be done.”
“For me, the most important thing is help and love from family, friends, caregivers and musicians. I couldn’t do anything (literally) without help.”
You had very notable successes in the 80s with your band Cacophony and the work you did on A Little Ain’t Enough with David Lee Roth before getting your ALS diagnosis. How has your experience in the music industry changed since becoming an artist with accessibility needs?
“Well, I am lucky because the guitar community is the best. So many great guitarists have come forward for me and acted as my “paintbrushes” as Steve Vai has said. Mostly, when I have asked for help with playing guitar solos, they are happy to contribute. I am so grateful for their love and support. As you say, I was somewhat established. So they know I am serious, and they like what they hear and most musicians are kind and giving and really seem to want to help and contribute to getting my music out there.”
“It is overwhelming. So, other than having to be totally patient because I cannot go at the speed I would like as far as producing and mixing, not to mention composing, it is pretty much the same. Don’t get me wrong, composing with eye movements, one note at a time, then doing all of the intricate details and additions takes years of hard work and major patience.”
Jason Becker continued:
“I’m not sure anyone has done it. As far as the music industry changing, I only wish there was more exposure to my music. I feel like I write music for everyone, not just guitar players. It is weird; So I haven’t been a “shredder” since I was a teenager, but that is what people still call me.”
“I write classical, pop, rock, funk, R&B, and all kinds of music. I wonder why only guitar publications knew about my album. So I generally think the GRAMMYs do a great job trying to get many styles of music out there. But money speaks very loudly. I was really shocked that not one national TV show wanted to tell my story of creating this amazing album (if I do say so myself). Am I being too Kanye [West]? HA HA!”