Musician Jason Becker refuses to let ALS silence him

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by Aidin Vaziri

September 16, 2013

SFGate

Jason Becker pictured in his home in front of five of his large guitar collection, two album covers painted by his father Gary.

Jason Becker isn’t supposed to be here.

More than two decades ago, just after the Richmond resident got his big break as the guitarist for former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth’s band, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the incurable motor-neuron disease better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doctors gave Becker three to five years to live. He was 20.

Even as he lost his ability to walk and talk, the baby-faced musical prodigy refused to accept his terminal prognosis.

“At the time, I didn’t believe that I couldn’t cure it,” Becker, now 44, said in an e-mail interview – which he is able to use through a system of blinking his eyes. “I was too young, and I had too much to do. I was living my dream and just kept on.”

Becker had to leave Roth’s band as his symptoms worsened to the point where he could no longer even hold his guitar. That’s when his story really began.

ALS is a rapidly progressive neurological disease that destroys the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling muscles in the arms, legs, diaphragm and chest wall. It is always terminal, even for those who decide to go on life support.

“Jason’s doctor at the time he got his tracheostomy and stomach tube told me he would probably not make it past six months,” said Becker’s mother, Pat. “That was in 1997.”

The disease doesn’t affect Becker’s senses – the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and feel someone’s touch.

Please see the full photo gallery and continue reading at: SFGate.com

 

30 Responses to “Musician Jason Becker refuses to let ALS silence him”

  1. Louis T Ross says:

    Watching very touching and inspiring documentary on Pivot right now. INCREDIBLE

  2. Amy says:

    Loved the photos. Great to see so many smiles :).

  3. Ioan Virag says:

    I’m a big fan of yours. I don’t want to give you false hopes but I’d like to let you know about some new thechnologies that could make your life better. Please let me know your email address and Keep up fighting!

  4. dethra says:

    Amazing. If your down feeling low or depressed think about jason,he can’t move but still makes music. Thats one badass dude right there.

  5. Bright Garlick says:

    Dear Jason – I was a fan of your early albums but myself had no talent towards the guitar god fantasy ! I look at you and I am incredibly moved and inspired as a fellow human being. You show what it means to embrace the gift of life and for that I thank you. I dare say after your NDE that you know how much all of us are loved. I just wanted to let you know that I am grateful you exist and are still here to bring love and beauty into the world. May you continue to know love and experience great joy in the midst of your suffering and your challenges. Thank you for opening your heart and your love to the world. May you continue to be a light in the darkness.

    Much love,

    Bright.

  6. Andrea Di Mauro says:

    Jason my name is Andrea I’m 42 years old I wright from Italy and when I was Younger I listen’d you …. You are the best guitar man I’ll never know… In Italy you have many fans… be strong … we are near you !!!

  7. Elvis says:

    Soy Elvis tengo la misma edad que tu y he vivido la misma experiencia rock que tu y no cambiaría y creo que tu tampoco lo vivido en esos maravillosos años pero ahora toco la guitarra todos los días y toco tus canciones y en cierta manera te hago vivir como el tío alegre y con ilusión que eras cuando toco
    Por eso te doy un fuerte abrazó y agradecerte todo lo que me aportas con tu música

  8. Ramon says:

    Jason, it’s been a long time since the last time I listened to your music…

    But I use to revisit it when I feel more alive, or something is about to hit the fan! I mean, in my whole life (im 28) there’s been a space for you; it didn’t matter what happened around me or where the winds of change did blow: there’s something Pure and Essential on you music that shuts down some feelings and bloom anothers, and I love it.

    It’s hard to me , non-english speaker, to describe my feelings when I listen to your music when my soul demands it, but it’s like catching an uncatchable divine-something, it’s a very special feeling that makes me want to cry of joy for life and being just grateful for being who I am and being able to feel, all the good and evil of this life.

    From the deep bottom of my soul, I speak for many other friends who vibrate in harmony with your masterpieces and not so master ones, but always truly human and pure.

    There’s no way anyone could feel you are “lucky” in a primary sense because your illness, but in some way, you’ve achieved something bigger, more pure and more evolving than many and many human generations that come and leave wothout leaving a trail: you have touched and driven towards a better understanding of life to many of your fans; your inner warrior and your smile are the way.

    Thanks Jason, I really hope that some day I can return to Life and Humankind 1/100 of the Love you brought to us.

  9. Mika says:

    I have just watched today the documentary about you in Polish TV. I just couldn’t move and was watching and watching. I admire your art and graet talent but even more I admire your psychological strength and joy of life in your difficult situation. I’m also on a wheelchair because of the amputation of my leg and serious rhumatic disease. I don’t play any instrument but I think we have one thing in common: joy of life and lots of very dedicated and wonderful people around us. Thanks to them both you and me can enjoy life and do what we love. I admire your family and friends, great respect for them. Because of your ilness and suffering you have shown many people that the most important is your internal strength.
    I am very happy that I could watch this documentary and get know you. Thank you for everything you have given to people and for your music.
    God bless you!

  10. Paul F. V. Henagan says:

    Jason you are a true human warrior & a very special person. May the love of your music and that of your family last forever and ever. We your fans through out the world will always have a place in our hearts for you. For you are the true soul of what it means to be a true rocker!!!

  11. Shelley A. Eade says:

    Jason, you are truly a complete and AMAZING human being, I thank you for all that is you….God Bless xo

  12. Fred says:

    My god, a true inspiration to everyone. You were blessed with a talent to only have it taken away. And, yet you still amaze everyone with what you are able to give us with your mind. Jason, God bless you and for everything you still continue to do. Thank you!

  13. Ray H. says:

    I just finished viewing “Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet”. I was so taken back by, not only your incredible talent, but your amazing spirit. You inspired me as you have thousands already. God Bless You, Jason Becker.

  14. Denise Richmond VA says:

    Hi Jason: just saw your story on Pivot TV and then looked you up on the web to learn more. Your gift(s)speaks volumes to the rest of us. You and your family are positively inspiring, amazing, wonderful—-there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to express what you have accomplished!!!. thank you for sharing your story. It touched my heart and truly confirms that Love is a gift that does make miracles happen.

  15. Владислав says:

    Hello,Jason ! I from Belorussia, you my favorite guitarplayer ever!!!

  16. jules says:

    Jason,
    Words cannot describe the gratitude of so many lives you have dramatically affected. The transcendence of emotion and inspiration of your life, your seemingly infinite creativity, your love, determination, and hope, all perpetually and universally shared seem beyond boundless. Please stay strong and encouraged. “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) and “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Much Love, Prayer, Blessings, and Peace to you and your family.

  17. Mary Ann Thomas says:

    Hi Jason, You have enriched the world with the music in your mind – DANG! You are one amazing composer. Love to you and your family.

  18. Flora says:

    Hi Jason and the rest of your family.
    I just saw your movie, ‘not dead yet’. I was profoundly touched by you and your family’s sense of humour, strength and love.
    Your story reminds me of my cousin who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 24 and his health went downhill fast. He unfortunately passed away 10 years later but I have fond memories of all the crazy times he and I had listening to music, jamming, going to see bands and having overall a hell of a good time ! I miss him terribly !
    You are an inspiration and extremely talented.
    Keep up your excellent work. Jason.
    From Montreal, Canada

  19. ed says:

    I was truly in awe of your talent. You are courageous young man. I am sure that you will motivate many young and older guitar lovers to never give up playing. God bless.

  20. Romero says:

    Jason I´m from Brazil and I´ve watched your documentary. You are a real inspiration for me not only as a musician but also as a human being. You are the real proof that we can be in any situation but still can be dreaming and fighting with the resources we have. Thank you so much for being such a special person. God bless you forever!!

  21. Marz Nova says:

    To say Jason is an inspiration would be the greatest of understatements! Jason has inspired me and millions of others around the world. The inspiration goes far beyond music. He inspires life and hope. The word hope is as important to humans as food is. Without hope we would all die.

    Jason thank you and please continue to strive and inspire.
    -Marz
    The worshyp

  22. Kari Lindblom says:

    Still here, listening to your music, just so you know, thank you!

  23. Will Gragido says:

    Dear Jason,

    From the first moment I heard ‘Cacophony’ and your solo album ‘Perpetual Burn’, I was hooked. Your playing, your style, sense of melody and harmony were addictive to a me as a young guitar player. Your story, to me, is much greater than the guitar. You remain an inspiration to me. Your music moves me to this day and your spirit inspires me to strive for greatness in my life. Thank you for your music and your great gifts.

    Best,

    Will Gragido

  24. Renee says:

    Hi JASON, YOU ARE INCREDIBLE GUITAR’S GENIUS, FIGHT, FIGHT , WE ARE WAITING FOR YOURS NEW COMPOSITIONS!!!, God Bless you forever,
    GREETINGS from POLAND

  25. Michael says:

    They can always take your body, but never your soul and that is where I am sure all the strength comes from. Music is what binds us all together, and certainly alive and well within you. No one, or nothing, can take this away from you. Much love from all the world over…

  26. Saqib says:

    You have to love Jason’s dad. He is worthy of highest respect.

  27. Phil Badell says:

    Thank you for your inspiration to millions. Keep up the wonderful work you do.

  28. Lisa S says:

    You’re such an inspiration to everyone.I sit here in awe of your strength.God Bless you and you’re mom and dad.You’re all blessed.

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