Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet


Directed by Jesse Vile. Featuring Jason Becker, Ehren Becker, Gary Becker, Pat Becker, Marty Friedman, Serrana Pilar, Joe Satriani Club, Light House, Dublin, 87 mins

IN THE LATE 1980s, Jason Becker looked set for full metal lordship.

A teenage guitar virtuoso from California with a nifty line in Bach fugues, Becker was only 16 when, under the auspices of rock mogul Mike Varney, he joined forces with Marty Friedman to form Cacophony. The duo would define shred and inspire a million bedroom air guitar solos with 1987’s Speed Metal Symphony and 1988’s Go Off!

Becker was soon snapped up by David Lee Roth to replace departing axe-master Steve Vai. It was a dream come true for the youngster and his extended family – until a nagging leg pain, initially dismissed as a “pinched nerve or something”, signalled the onset of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

With no known cure and no effective treatment, the prognosis was grim: Becker struggled to complete his parts on David Lee Roth’s A Little Ain’t Enough before his body succumbed to muscular atrophy. He wasn’t expected to live more than five years, and yet, as the title of Jesse Vile’s heartwarming documentary suggests, he is still with us more than two decades later.

Now this is a feel-good movie. We use the term in earnest. Becker’s diagnosis offers no opportunity for a miraculous Japanese tour ending, but it does illustrate that even the most hopeless and debilitating conditions can, with ingenuity and care, be accommodated. It takes a village.

Thanks to a unique signing language based on eye movement designed by his dad, Becker continues to compose and record music. Thanks to his lovely, artistic family and two beautiful ex-girlfriends now turned carers, he continues to thrive, even in paralysis. Thanks to the larger heavy metal brotherhood he continues to inspire pilgrimages from budding teen axe-slingers.

Deftly pieced together from straight-to-camera interviews, home movies and big-haired archive footage, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet pays hearty tribute to Paganini-playing shredders and offers up a blueprint for dedicated care in the home and community.

In a huge, award-baiting week for film, in the rush to catch Amour and The Master, don’t overlook this crowd-funded crowd-pleaser.

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