Legendary Guitarist Jeff Beck 1944 – 2023
Beck was one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of all time.
By Nate Todd Jan 11, 2023 • 3:24 pm PST
Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck has died at age 78. His family confirmed his sudden death from bacterial meningitis in a statement:
On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.
Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born on June 24, 1944, in Wallington, Surrey, England. Beck was inspired by Les Paul to play the electric guitar and even tried to build his own guitars like Paul. Beck was further influenced by American guitarists like Gene Vincent axeman Cliff Gallup as well as B.B. King, Lonnie Mack and more. In 1963, Beck began playing blues and R&B around London clubs and would replace Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds in 1965 at the suggestion of his friend Jimmy Page.
Beck’s innovative use of early effects like fuzz and feedback added an edge to the pop-leaning British Invasion band. Page would eventually join Beck in the Yardbirds, creating perhaps the greatest double guitar attack in rock history, although it was shortlived. Beck acrimoniously parted ways with the Yardbirds in 1966.
Beck would go on to form the first iteration of the Jeff Beck Group, which featured future Faces members Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood along with rock piano player extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins. Although he was also a prospective guitarist for Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, a car accident sidelined Beck in 1969.
After recovering, different iterations of the JBG would evolve into the supergroup power trio, Beck, Bogert and Appice, with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice in the early 1970s. The trio put out a self-titled album in 1973, bolstered by a hit cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” arranged for Beck by Stevie himself.
Following the dissolution of the trio, Beck’s solo career hit a zenith with mid-1970s solo albums, Blow By Blow and Wired, both helmed by famed Beatles producer George Martin. The records signaled Beck moving more into an instrumental, jazz-fusion format.
While the early 1980s saw Beck’s live output slowing down, the guitarist revved his career back up with the Nile Rodgers-produced 1985 album, Flash. The record reunited Beck with Rod Stewart, with the pair clocking a Top 50 hit for a cover of the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.” An instrumental on the LP, “Escape,” also garnered Beck his first of eight Grammy Awards.
While his output slowed down again in the early 1990s, Beck continued to rack up accolades including an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of the Yardbirds. Beck would go into the Rock Hall in 2009 as a solo artist.
Beck found a late-career collaborator in actor/musician Johnny Depp. The duo recently completed a tour around their collaborative album 18.
Jeff Beck will be remembered as one of most innovative and influential guitar players of all time.