By James Pleasant
Renowned heavy metal guitarist Marty Friedman is teaming up with Riff Axelerator to help fund the living and medical expenses of Jason Becker—a legendary guitarist whose career was tragically cut short after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1990.
Riff Axelerator, a program designed to help guitarists of all levels learn how to play various rock and heavy metal licks, recently unveiled its Marty Friedman lick lesson pack which features 10 different guitar licks spanning Friedman’s expansive career. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Jason Becker Special Needs Fund.
Friedman, who’s best known for his work as lead guitarist for Megadeth in the 1990s, worked with Becker on music projects in the late 1980s. The two guitarists played together in the band Cacophony, and on two of Friedman’s solo albums.
Shortly after receiving the New Guitarist of the Year award from Guitar Magazine in 1990, Becker began to feel a lazy limp in his left leg before officially receiving a diagnosis of ALS later that year, and was given three to five years to live. Despite beating those initial odds, the disease eventually left Becker unable to speak, walk, and play guitar. He remains mentally sharp as ever, and is able to effectively communicate and play music with eye pattern technology invented by his father. Becker’s journey is chronicled in the 2012 documentary, “Not Dead Yet.”
ALS is a crippling neural disease that robs victims of the ability to use basic motor skills and deteriorates their muscles, eventually causing death. More than 6,000 people in the United States alone are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the ALS Association.