Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Series-Disabled Legend Jason Becker

Jason Becker, was born on 22 July, 1969. Jason is an American neo-classical metal guitarist and composer. At the age of 16, he became part of the Mike Varney-produced duo Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. They released Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988.

Jason Becker studied the works of violinist Niccolò Paganini and was a playing partner with Marty Friedman. Jason later composed a rendition of Paganini’s 5th Caprice, performing it during an instructional guitar video. Jason Becker’s compositions often include high speed scalar and arpeggio passages, both of which are trademarks of his ‘shred’ style of guitar playing. The song “Serrana”, appearing in the album Perspective, is an example of his sweep-picking skills. Jason demonstrated the arpeggio sequence during a clinic at the Atlanta Institute of Music. A video of this performance first appeared on his Hot Licks guitar instructional video and can now be viewed on YouTube.

Jason Becker started out playing alongside Marty Friedman in the Mike Varney produced duo, Cacophony. Jason Becker and Marty Friedman toured together with Cacophony in Japan and across the United States. In 1989 Jason Becker left to pursue a solo career, releasing his 1st solo album titled ‘Perpetual Burn’ in 1988, and has since released ‘Perspective’, as well as 2 albums of demos, entitled ‘The Raspberry Jams’ and The Blackberry Jams.

At the age of 20, he joined David Lee Roth’s band, replacing Steve Vai, who went on to join Whitesnake. While recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album and preparing for the subsequent tour in 1990, Jason Becker began to feel what he called a “lazy limp” on his left leg. Jason was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and given 3 years to live. Jason could barely finish the recording, using low-gauge (thin) guitar strings and other techniques, which would make it easier to play with his weakening hands. Although he managed to finish the album he did not join the supporting tour due to his inability to perform on stage; former Lizzy Borden guitarist Joe Holmes took Jason Becker’s place on tour.

Jason eventually lost the ability to speak and now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Although his ALS gradually robbed him of his ability to play guitar, to walk, and eventually even to speak, he still remains mentally sharp and, with the aid of a computer, continues composing. In the back of the Perspective CD case, Jason Becker states “I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It has crippled my body and speech, but not my mind.” Now in his 30s, his medical condition has remained stable since 1997. No recent updates pertaining to Jason’s condition has been heard of aside from him stating that he has felt a little better and gained some weight, but this was in 2003.

In 1996 Jason Becker released an album entitled 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 been started before ALS completely crippled his abilities. By using guitar and later, when he was unable to use both hands, a keyboard, he continued to compose while his disease worsened. However, when Jason Becker could no longer physically play even a keyboard, his friend and music producer Mike Bemesderfer helped him with a music-composing computer program which could read the movements of his head and eyes enabling Json Becker to continue to compose after he lost control of his entire body.

Several years later Jason Becker released Raspberry Jams (1999) and Blackberry Jams (2003), the first contained various unreleased demo-tracks and the latter contained demo-tracks and alternate versions of songs that were later reworked and published into other albums.

2 tribute albums to Jason Becker have been issued. Respectively entitled Warmth in the Wilderness I and Warmth in the Wilderness II, they feature guitarists such as Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Joe Becker, Rusty Cooley, and Mattias Eklundh. The album profits were sent to Jason Becker to help him with his medical finances.

Shrapnel Records will be releasing a Best of Jason Becker album. The album, is scheduled for release in October and will feature three new songs for the album which will feature Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Joe Satriani, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, and Steve Hunter. The album will also feature older, never-heard songs/recordings.

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