Jeff Beck, the famous guitarist who played with the Yardbirds and fronted the Jeff Beck band, has died aged 78, his rep has confirmed.
Beck died on Tuesday after “suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis,” the rep confirmed. “His family asks for privacy as they process this tremendous loss,” they added.
Often described as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Beck – whose fingers and thumbs were insured for £7million – was known as a passionate innovator. He pioneered jazz-rock, experimented with fuzz and distortion effects, and paved the way for heavier subgenres such as psych rock and heavy metal during his career. He was an eight-time Grammy winner, recipient of the Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as both a solo artist and a member. Yardbirds.
Musicians and longtime friends began paying their respects within minutes of the news breaking. On Twitter, Jimmy Page wrote“The Six-String Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions. Jeff could channel the music of the ethereal. His unique technique. His seemingly limitless imagination. Jeff , I will miss you with your millions of fans.
“With the death of Jeff Beck, we have lost a wonderful man and one of the greatest guitarists in the world,” Mick Jagger wrote. “We will all miss him so much.”
Rod Stewart, who toured with the band Jeff Beck in the late ’60s, called him “one of the few guitarists who, when they were playing live, really listened to me sing and answer…you were the greatest, my man. Thank you for everything.”
Gene Simmons called him “Heartbreaking news… no one played guitar like Jeff. Please get the first two Jeff Beck albums and see the greatness. TEAR.”
“Now that Jeff is gone, I feel like a brother of mine has left this world, and I will miss him dearly,” Ronnie Wood tweeted.
Ozzy Osbourne tweeted“I cannot express how saddened I am to learn of the passing of Jeff Beck. What a terrible loss to his family, friends and many fans. It was such an honor to have known Jeff and an honor amazing to have it played on my last album.
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour wrote“I am devastated to hear the news of the death of my friend and hero Jeff Beck, whose music has delighted and inspired me and countless others for so many years…He will forever remain in our hearts.”
The Kinks’ Dave Davies tweeted, “I am heartbroken, he seemed to me in great shape. Playing very well, he was in great shape. I’m shocked and bewildered…it doesn’t make sense, I don’t understand. He was a good friend and an excellent guitarist.
Beck was born Geoffrey Beck in 1944, in Wallington, south London. As a child, he sang in a church choir and started playing guitar as a teenager, getting his first instrument after trying to dupe a music store on a hire-purchase scheme. “There was this guy, he wasn’t old enough to be my father but he offered to be my guarantor. He said, “I’ll tell them I’m your stepdad,” he told The New Statesman in 2016. “Within a month, they figured out he had nothing to do with me and they picked up the guitar. My dad left and explained we couldn’t afford it – so they waived the rest of the payments and I got the guitar.
After briefly attending art school in London, Beck began performing with Screaming Lord Sutch until after Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page recommended Beck as his replacement. Although already successful by this time, the Yardbirds had many of their biggest hits during Beck’s short tenure in the group, including the 1966 album Yardbirds and the No. 3 single Shapes of Things. Beck was only in the Yardbirds for 20 months, leaving the band in 1966 due to inter-band tensions that arose while on an American tour. (He would later say that “every day was a hurricane in the Yardbirds.”)
In 1968, Beck released Truth, his first solo album, which drew inspiration from blues and hard rock to form a prototypical version of heavy metal. A year later, he released an album with Jeff Beck’s band, Beck-Ola, but saw his solo career derailed after sustaining a head injury in a car accident.
In 1970, after recovering from his fractured skull, Beck formed a new incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group and released two records – 1971’s Rough and Ready and 1972’s Jeff Beck Group – which displayed his first forays into the jazz fusion sound. that he would become famous. to.
In the mid-1970s, Beck supported John McLaughlin’s jazz-rock band Mahavishnu Orchestra on tour, an experience that radically changed his outlook on music. “Watching [McLaughlin] and the saxophonist trading solos, I was like, ‘That’s me,'” he said in 2016.
Inspired, Beck fully embraced jazz fusion on George Martin’s Blow By Blow. A platinum hit in the US that peaked at No. 4, it was Beck’s most commercially successful album, but he later expressed regret. “I shouldn’t have done Blow By Blow,” he told Guitar Player in 1990. “I wish I’d stayed with earthy rock ‘n’ roll. When you’re around very musical people like Max Middleton and Clive Chaman, you’re in a prison, and you have to play with this.
Despite his later feelings about Blow By Blow, Beck continued to experiment throughout the 70s, releasing another platinum jazz fusion album, Wired, in 1976, and There and Back, in 1980.
Beck’s production slowed considerably in the 1980s, in part due to his tinnitus. His projects over the decade were sporadic but notable: in 1981 he performed with Clapton, Sting and Phil Collins at Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Other Ball benefit concerts, and returned with his first solo album. in five years, Flash, in 1985. Produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, it presented a sea change for Beck in that it featured mostly vocal pop tracks, a departure from his largely instrumental 70s output. Get Ready, a collaboration with Rod Stewart, became one of Beck’s few hit singles under his own name, charting in the United States, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland.
The 1989 album Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop was his last solo album in a decade, but he remained active in the 90s, collaborating with Jon Bon Jovi, Kate Bush and Roger Waters, among others; in 1999 he released Who Else, which incorporated techno and electronic elements.
In the 2000s and 2010s, Beck released only a handful of albums, but began to settle into his role as a former statesman and praised influence, performing with artists such than Kelly Clarkson and Joss Stone. He has lived on an estate in East Sussex since 1976 and married his second wife, Sandra Cash, in 2005.
Beck’s most recent project was last year’s 18, a collaborative album with Johnny Depp that featured original songs written by Depp and covers by Marvin Gaye, the Velvet Underground and other classic artists. The album was widely panned; in a two-star review, Michael Hann of The Guardian described it as a “particular and wildly uneven record”, while noting that “it is to Beck’s credit that alone among the guitar heroes of the British R&B boom of the 1960s, he did not retire to coffee – the table blues.
This article was last updated on January 12, 2023. Beck-Ola dated in 1969, not 1971 as an earlier version suggested, and Sandra Cash was Beck’s second wife, not his sixth.