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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Legend of Jason Becker - Documentaries, Performances, and Television News Clips


Inspirational documentary about guitar prodigy Jason Becker. Near the end there is a segment at Kennedy High School where Jason performs Yngwie Malmsteen's Black Star with his band at a talent show. The performance is nothing short of spectacular.

Also included is a collection of performances and TV news clips.

Jason Becker (born July 22, 1969) 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. Cacophony broke up in 1989 and Becker began doing solo work, having released his first album Perpetual Burn in 1988. He later joined David Lee Roth's band and recorded one album with him. However, Becker's success was hampered by his then-diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and was given three to five years to live. In 1996, Becker eventually lost the ability to speak and now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Despite his disability, he continues composing by using a computer.


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 in 1989, and preparing for the subsequent tour, Becker began to feel what he called a "lazy limp" on his left leg. He was soon diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and given three to five years to live. He 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, which was released in 1991, he did not join the supporting tour due to his inability to perform on stage; former Lizzy Borden guitarist Joe Holmes took Becker's place on tour.

Due to his illness, he 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, Becker states "I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It has crippled my body and speech, but not my mind." His medical condition has remained stable since 1997. In 2003, Jason posted on his website that he was feeling better and had gained some weight, while the folder for his 2008 album Collection also mentions an upcoming book.

In 1996 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 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 Becker to continue to compose after he lost control of his entire body.

Several years later 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.

Two 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 Becker to help him with his medical finances.

On November 4, 2008, Shrapnel Records released a new Jason Becker album entitled Collection. The album includes three new songs in addition to some older recordings (some never before released) and features Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Joe Satriani, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, and Steve Hunter.
In 2008 Paradise Guitars worked with Jason to design a Jason Becker signature guitar. The design is based on the Peavey with colored number fret inlays. Features include a genuine aldermaple neck with steel 2-way truss rod, maple 16" radius fingerboard, 24 jumbo thin frets with colored number fret marker inlays, black Floyd Rose Pro Style floating Tremolo with Floyd Rose Tremolo stop, Sperzel red satin tuners, 14 degree tilt-back headstock with black Paradise logo and matching tremolo and electronics plates. The pickups are DiMarzio pickups; a P.A.F. body, Pro-Custom in the neck colored yellow and red, a DP116 HS-2 in the neck colored green, and a Tone Zone-Custom in the bridge colored pink and blue. These colored pickups compliment the colored inlays and seem to give the guitar a rainbow effect. There is also a red 5-way switch and purple 1-11 volume knob.

Information on Jason's latest projects and about ordering his CD's can be found on his website.
References: http://jasonbeckerguitar.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Becker








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