On Wednesday, the official website of Jeff Beck announced the passing of the renowned guitarist who gained fame with 1960s supergroup the Yardbirds, and subsequently, had a successful solo career. He was 78 years old. Beck was known for his exceptional guitar skills and innovation, and was regarded as one of the world’s most exceptional interpreters of rhythm and blues. According to the website, he died “peacefully” following a brief bout of bacterial meningitis. Beck had recently finished a tour promoting his album in collaboration with Johnny Depp, “18”. He received seven Grammy awards for his instrumental performances, and an additional one for his work on Herbie Hancock’s ‘The Imagine Project’ in 2009.
David Gilmour, Pink Floyd guitarist tweeted, “I am devastated to hear the news of the death of my friend and hero Jeff Beck, whose music has thrilled and inspired me and countless others for so many years. Polly’s and my thoughts go out to his lovely wife Sandra. He will be forever in our hearts.”
Jeff Beck first gained recognition as a member of the Yardbirds, and then embarked on a solo career that encompassed a wide range of musical styles such as hard rock, jazz, blues and even opera. He was considered among the elite of rock guitarists in the late 1960s, along with fellow musicians such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix. He reached the pinnacle of both critical and commercial success with his two all-instrumental albums, “Blow by Blow” and “Wired” in the mid-1970s, where he delved into jazz-fusion territory. The latter album was recorded with keyboardist Jan Hammer, who was formerly a member of the notable fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as reported by Variety.
Jeff Beck began tinkering on a borrowed guitar as a teenager and attempted to build his own. He studied at the Wimbledon School of Art, where he played in R&B and rock bands while honing his skills and experimenting with different genres. His big break came when he was recommended as a replacement for Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds by Jimmy Page.
He used his guitar to imitate the sitar in the band’s album “Roger the Engineer” and broke new ground in the traditionalist blues band. He only stayed with the band for 20 months before starting his solo career, releasing “Beck’s Bolero” in 1966. He struggled to translate his ideas into music due to the limitations of technology in the 60s. He later went on to release an album with Johnny Depp in 2022. He was widely considered to have redefined guitar music in the 60s, and was also influential in jazz-rock and heavy metal. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, in 2009.