Jason Becker’s Words

Hey homeboys and girls. Thank you for clicking this button. As you probably know, I am a guitarist/musician. You also probably know I have had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) for over 20 years. In 1989, doctors told me I would probably die in 3 to 5 years. What you probably don’t know is why I am still alive, and why in the past four years I haven’t gotten any worse, only better. I have gained at least 30 pounds and three muscles, and this is with a few months here and there of getting off health food and treatments.
What follows is a hint of the nature of the book I am currently writing. Since most of this article was written for a spiritual magazine called “Self Realization”, it leans toward that aspect of my life. My book will have much more music and other stories about dealing with ALS, as well as more spiritual stuff.
Please take what you want and leave the rest. I sincerely hope you enjoy yourselves while reading this.
Included are other web sites or names that help and inspire me. Thanks.
By the way, Ammachi is my guru. Yogananda’s teachings, in themselves, are perfectly wonderful and, as you will see, they work. But to have a mahatma living like Amma, that you can actually talk to, and touch is the greatest thing one could hope for. An organization like “Self Realization Fellowship” sometimes thinks it can interpret the master’s teachings and not just let them stand on their own. All I am saying is no one religion or organization has a patent on enlightenment. Follow your own heart.
We live thinking we will never die.
We die thinking we had never lived.
Cut it out.
Part One
My Life, Music, Disease and Yogananda
Before I tell a little about my life and start gushing over Paramahansa Yogananda and Ammachi, let me say it is not my place to tell anyone how to live or think. Most of my beautiful friends are not Self-Realization Fellowship members, although they respect Yogananda and Ammachi. I just think this could be a neat story that might increase one’s own faith, from wherever it stems.
When my parents (my first gurus) were young, they read Autobiography of a Yogi. So while I was growing up, I sometimes saw Yogananda’s picture on the front cover. Even when I was a toddler I thought, “this guy has all the answers”, just from the photo.
Paramahansa Yogananda
My father, Gary, played classical guitar and my uncle, Ron, played blues guitar so I wanted to be a guitar hero. I loved Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Eric Clapton; then Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eddie Van Halen. From age five on I constantly practiced and visualized being a great musician. I absorbed every kind of music I heard; classical, Indian, Japanese, Native American, jazz, blues, rock – whatever I could find. I performed at school and little coffeehouses from sixth grade on.
When I was in elementary school there was a creek right around the corner where my family and friends would play. The Richmond SRF Temple was built right above it. While walking home from high school, my friends would take SRF literature and read it sort of mockingly, although the meaning couldn’t be mocked. I laughed with them but always said, “He is right though. This guy knows everything.” At the time, though, I thought I also knew everything because I was a very good guitarist and giving lessons to even my music teacher.
At sixteen I met my friend, Marty Friedman, a great guitarist, who had already made a few records. We made four albums of virtuoso-type guitar playing together, and played in Japan and across the U.S. We never got mega-famous together but we are known all over the world for our innovative style.
In 1989, I left to do my own music only. I joined David Lee Roth’s band when I was 20. Every guitarist would have killed for this gig because the two previous guitarists, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai were respected stars. In 1990, I won a readers’ poll for best new guitarist in “Guitar Magazine”.
I had been having a lazy limp in my left leg so I went to check it out. I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and given five years to live. The doctors even said don’t bother changing your diet because it won’t help. My family was crushed, but I just laughed and said “no way, I have things to do and I’m invincible.” My father quit his job to come and live with me in Glendale. I went to Vancouver to record Dave’s album, “A Little Ain’t Enough,” which went gold. The weakness traveled through my body into my fingering hand and, unbeknownst to all but my friend, Steve Hunter, I barely finished the album with a shaky hand. I was also falling often. I laughed about it because I thought it would go away. (See TEARSHEET GALLERY)
One night I dreamed I was running. When I woke up I forgot I had a limp, so I walked totally normal until I remembered, “oh, yeah, I have a limp”. Then I immediately stumbled. That showed me that if you have control over your mind, you can do anything.