Today in 2018, the release of the album “Triumphant Hearts” by guitarist Jason Becker.
And not many people in music know as much about triumph over adversity as Jason Becker.
His career as a guitarist started at age five.
By the time he was a teenager, Becker was able to play note for note along with some of the most complex rock guitar parts ever played.
Word spread quickly about the young virtuoso who could play guitar with one hand and play yo-yo with the other.
By age 17 Becker had a record deal; at 19, he was recording and writing songs with former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth.
But just as he was hitting it big, he hit a giant roadblock.
Becker had noticed what he called a nagging pain in his leg.
A week after he had joined the Roth band, doctors diagnosed him with ALS.
They said he had three to five years to live.
Becker was able to finish the record with David Lee Roth – he switched to extra light guitar strings – but he had to drop out of the tour as his physical abilities declined.
And after that, he had a different challenge: he had so much music in his head and he had to find ways to put it out into the world.
When he couldn’t play guitar, he used a keyboard, and after he couldn’t play keyboards, he switched to a specially designed computer.
When he couldn’t work the computer anymore, he and his dad created a system where he could use eye movements to spell out letters and words, and eventually melodies and chords.
Becker started writing songs and releasing albums again.
It’s not a quick process; the “Triumphant Hearts” album took years to produce.
Becker relayed his musical ideas to family and colleagues, who would input the compositions into computers.
Then, he would bring in other accomplished guitarists and musicians to play the parts he’d written.
And he got some big names, including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jake Shimabukuro and Neal Schon.
But maybe the most enjoyable guitar parts are the ones by Becker himself.
He said he has a lot of unreleased tape of his own guitar playing, so why not take one of those parts and build it into a song, or even build a song around one of them?
Jason Becker’s musical career hasn’t been a typical one and it hasn’t always been easy, but through it all he’s kept making the music he’s been hearing for all these years.
In Springfield, Illinois, there’s a lot happening for the holidays, including regular appearances each Wednesday and Saturday afternoon by “Holly.”
In case you’re wondering, “Holly” is a city bus covered in tens of thousands of lights; she can put on festive – and mobile – light shows.
Jason Becker’s Bio (JasonBecker.com)
Paralyzed guitarist with ALS plays on (ABC News via Archive.org)
Old Capitol Holiday Walks (Visit Springfield)