I have been patiently waiting for Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet to show in Australian cinemas, it hasn’t happened and don’t think it will so when I saw that the DVD was now available I quickly ordered one and last night finally sat down to watch this brilliant film about the amazing person that is Jason Becker.
To rewind a little when I was 12 years old I started playing guitar, I quickly started discovering new young guitarists via magazines and record shops and by the age of 14 I had a collection of Vinyl Shrapnel albums, Michael Lee Firkins, Richie Kotzen, Marty Friedman and of course Jason Becker. I not only owned Perpetual Burn on vinyl but also Cacophony ‘Go Off!‘ which featured the incredible talents of Jason Becker AND Marty Friedman playing ludicrous dual shred melodies and solos which blew my mind. I still listen to Perpetual Burn regularly, while the production is a little cheap sounding by todays standards the playing and musicianship displayed is just outrageous and according to Shrapnel boss Mike Varney who appears throughout the film most of this was recorded in a single take and if it wasn’t Jason would be annoyed with himself. Personally I can’t imagine being able to play anything off that album at all let alone record it in a single take.
When a player comes along who is so unbelievably talented there is usually a mixture of raw talent plus a lot of hard work to get to that point and Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet takes you back to the beginning with some rare footage taken from the Becker family’s personal archives. Jason it seems was exposed to music from a very early age and had a strong desire to learn everything he could and wasn’t afraid to lock himself away for hours learning by himself, listening to and analysing Bach’s compositions and forfeiting much of his youth to fully immerse himself with becoming a guitar virtuoso and composer. By the age of 19 Jason became the latest guitar prodigy to join David Lee Roth for his album ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’, which features some of my personal favourite Becker moments as it shows more restraint and a different side to his playing. Unfortunately there was a reason for this restraint which as you already know was the onset of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a disease which took away not only his ability to play guitar but also the ability to move anything except for his eyes and facial muscles. This film shows how the disease suddenly took away everything he had worked so hard for and yet Jason kept on being positive, fighting something that the doctors said would take his life within 5 years, it has been 22 years now and Jason has managed to continue composing and being an inspiration to thousands of guitar players across the world. This is an inspirational and important film that not only documents Jason’s life as one of the best electric guitar players we have ever seen but also gives hope to others who may be suffering from similar illnesses. This is a must watch film.