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Jeff Beck

Legendary Guitarist Jeff Beck, Dead At 78

Jeff Beck (L.Paul Mann/CelebrityAccess)
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SURREY, UK (CelebrityAccess) — Jeff Beck, one of the most influential rock guitarists of his generation, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Surrey. He was 78.

His death was announced in a statement posted on his official website: “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 asks for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”

Beck was a celebrated musician and widely regarded as one of the best guitarists of the 20th Century, winning the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance on six different occasions as well as the final Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 2011.

He was presented with the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music in 2014 and he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on two separate occasions, first in 1992 as a member of the Yardbirds, and then again as a solo artist in 2009.

A native of Wallington, England, Beck came to music at an early age, singing in a church choir and learning guitar on a borrowed instrument while still a teenager. While attending the Wimbledon College of Art, Beck performed with numerous local bands, including Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages and The Rumbles before he was recruited by the Yardbirds to replace Eric Clapton.

Beck’s tenure with the Yardbirds was short, lasting for twenty months, but notable. With Beck on guitar, the band recorded their most commercially successful material, including hits such as “Smokestack Lightning”, “I’m a Man”, “Heart Full of Soul”, “You’re a Better Man Than I”, “The Train Kept A-Rollin'”, and “Shapes of Things”, which made up the core of the band’s live concert set.

However, Beck left the group during their U.S. tour in 1966 after failing to appear at multiple shows and for what was reported to be his propensity for angry outbursts and perfectionism.

After his exit from the Yardbirds, Beck was considered for recruitment by numerous bands, including Pink Floyd, following the departure of Syd Barrett, and the Rolling Stones after the untimely death of Brian Jones, but opted to form his own band, The Jeff Beck Group and he launched a career as a solo artist.

However, the group was short-lived and after a tour of the U.S. in 1969 that includes shows at the Fillmore East and Newport Jazz, Beck disbanded the group just before they were due to perform at the Woodstock Music Festival.

Beck was forced to take a hiatus from music after he was seriously injured in a car accident, but he reformed the Jeff Beck Group in 1971 with guitarist and singer Bobby Tench, keyboard player Max Middleton and bassist Clive Chaman.

He reunited with the Yardbirds in the 1980s, performing at the Amnesty International-sponsored benefit concerts dubbed The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, and collaborated with numerous other artists, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Kate Bush, Buddy Guy, and Mick Jagger, among numerous others.

For the next two decades, Beck continued to record and perform with the Jeff Beck Group and collaborate with other artists on a wide range of projects.

He returned to the charts in 2014 when “No Man’s Land (Green Fields of France)” (with Joss Stone) reached 49 on the UK singles chart and released his final solo studio album, Loud Hailer, in 2016 via ATCO Records.

Most recently, Beck collaborated with actor Johnny Depp on the 2022 album 18, which featured covers of songs by Killing Joke, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, The Velvet Underground, The Everly Brothers and Janis Ian, as well as two original songs written by Depp.

Following news of his passing, numerous colleagues and peers paid tribute to the late rock legend.

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