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  Richmond Native Jason Becker Battles ALS, Keeps Making Music
September 6, 2013

Richmond native Jason Becker battles ALS, keeps making music
By Jim Harrington

Posted:   09/06/2013 06:13:30 AM PDT | Updated:   88 min. ago

Jason Becker brings a whole nother meaning to the overused term "guitar hero."
The Richmond musician was well on his way to stardom in the early '90s when he landed the prime job as lead guitarist in David Lee Roth's band. Soon after, unfortunately, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease -- and had to quit the group.
That's when the heroics really began.
Becker, who graduated from Richmond's Kennedy High School, was originally given three years to live.
That was more than two decades ago.
He's now 44 and among the 5 percent of ALS patients to live 20 years after diagnosis. And he's still making music. Although he can barely move, Becker is still able to compose. He uses his eyes and an invention created by his father to help him communicate his thoughts and ideas.
Many people learned about the guitarist and his battle against ALS in the documentary film "Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet," which debuted and won two major awards at the 2012 Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose.
The film will be screened again on Sept. 19 during a benefit for Becker and ALS research at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco. The event is "Not Dead Yet: Movie and Music to End ALS" and it will also feature a musical performance by Pearl (with Scott Ian, Jim Wilson and Joey Vera) as well as such special guests as Forrest Day. Show time is 7 p.m. and tickets are $30-$70 (www.bimbos365club.com).
"(The benefit) was Cytokinetics' idea," Becker said by email. "They are a great company researching treatments for ALS. They and ALS-TDI are really trying to find answers and treatments. I am really happy to be associated with them.
"They want to help get the word out about ALS, and also help me and others with this disease. While they are working on treatments, they also understand that patients need help in the meantime. My story might give others ideas on how to live a good life with ALS."
Beyond the benefit, Becker has many other things keeping him busy these days. For instance, he is currently working on a new album in San Francisco that he says will feature performances by "20 of the greatest guitarists alive." Becker also now has a signature guitar (made by Carvin guitars), which is reportedly selling quite well.
To learn more about Becker, and to hear his music, visit http://jasonbeckerguitar.com.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.