Jason Becker, a onetime guitar prodigy first known as part of the metal duo CACOPHONY, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at age 20, shortly after joining David Lee Roth‘s band for the gold-selling 1991 album “A Little Ain’t Enough”. Although the disease robbed him of his ability to play guitar — and eventually left him both paralyzed and unable to speak — Becker continues to compose music with the help of computers, collaborators, and a system of communication using eye movements that was devised by his father Gary.
Even after his once prodigious axe skills left him, Jason‘s music continued to earn the respect of his peers. Joe Satriani called 2001’s “Perspectives” — Jason‘s first recorded work after losing his motor functions (originally self-released in 1996) — “a triumphantly powerful and beautiful album.” Fellow virtuosos joined the chorus of praise, including Steve Vai, who said, “Jason has discovered a brilliant source of inspiration within himself. His deep soul searching has resulted in a body of music that reveals courage and insight and is deeply moving.”
Jason‘s original partner in CACOPHONY, Marty Friedman added, “To call Jason a genius is an understatement. He doesn’t cater to trend, target audiences, marketing gimmicks or anything like that. He plays out the emotions from his heart and makes real music that is a salute to the human spirit. Jason is a prodigy and on ‘Perspectives’ he realizes his miraculous potential.”
Jason‘s most recent album, 2008’s “Collection”, is a mix of old recordings and new compositions, with guest guitar work from Satriani, Vai, Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, and Greg Howe.
The January 23 Jason Becker’s Not Dead Yet festival at Slim’s in San Francisco is a tribute to Jason and celebration of his amazing story, as well as an opportunity to educate music fans and guitar aficionados about the effects of ALS and the quest for a cure. The idea for the show originated with Bay Area guitarist Dave Lopez of FLIPSYDE and BANG DATA.
The DVD version of the documentary film “Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet” was made available on December 18 via Kino Lorber.
For more on Jason Becker and his fight with ALS, go to www.jasonbeckerguitar.com.