NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff Beck, the guitar virtuoso who pushed the boundaries of blues, jazz and rock’n’roll, influenced generations of shredders and became known as a guitarist’s guitarist, has died. He was 78.
Beck died Tuesday after “suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis,” his representatives said in a statement released Wednesday. The location was not immediately known.
“Jeff was such a lovely person and an outstanding iconic, brilliant guitarist – there will never be another Jeff Beck,” Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi wrote on Twitter among many tributes.
Beck first rose to fame as a member of the Yardbirds before striking out on a solo career that spanned hard rock, jazz, funky blues and even opera. He was known for his improvisation, love of the harmonica, and a stylish bar on his favorite Fender Stratocaster guitar.
“Jeff Beck is the best guitarist on the planet,” Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry told The New York Times in 2010. “He’s head, arms and legs above everyone else, with the kind of talent that only comes around once every generation or two. “
Beck was part of a late 1960s rock guitar pantheon that included Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. Beck has won eight Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once with the Yardbirds in 1992 and again as a solo artist in 2009. He was ranked number five on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Time.”
“Jeff could be broadcasting music from the ethereal world,” Page tweeted on Wednesday.
Beck has played guitar with vocalists as diverse as Luciano Pavarotti, Macy Gray, Chrissie Hynde, Joss Stone, Imelda May, Cyndi Lauper, Wynonna Judd, Buddy Guy and Johnny Depp. He made two records with Rod Stewart – 1968’s “Truth” and 1969’s “Beck-Ola” – and one with a 64-piece orchestra, “Emotion & Commotion”.
“I like the element of chaos in music. That feeling is the best thing ever, as long as you don’t have too much of it. It has to be in balance. I just saw Cirque du Soleil and it felt like total organized chaos,” he told Guitar World in 2014. “If I could turn that into music, it’s not far from what my ultimate goal would be, which is to please people. with chaos and beauty at the same time.’
Beck’s career highlights include teaming up with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice to form the power trio that released “Beck, Bogert and Appice” in 1973, touring with Brian Wilson and Buddy Guy, and a tribute album to the late guitarist Les Paul, “Rock “. ‘n’ Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul).
Beck’s album includes “Talking Book,” Stevie Wonder’s 1972 landmark. His tenderly rendered guitar solo on the ballad “Lookin’ For Another Pure Love” earned him Wonder’s heartfelt challenge to “Do it Jeff,” which was part of the album cut.
Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born in Surrey, England and attended Wimbledon Art College. His father was an accountant and his mother worked in a chocolate factory. As a boy, he built his first instrument using a cigar box, a neck frame and a string from a radio-controlled toy airplane.
He was in a number of bands – including Nightshift and The Tridents – before joining the Yardbirds in 1965, replacing Clapton, only to be replaced by Page just a year later. During his tenure, the band produced the memorable singles “Heart Full of Soul”, “I’m a Man” and “Shapes of Things”.
Beck’s first hit single was the 1967 instrumental “Beck’s Bolero”, which featured future Led Zeppelin members Page and John Paul Jones and The Who drummer Keith Moon. Jeff Beck’s band – with Stewart on vocals – was later booked to play the 1969 Woodstock music festival, but their show was cancelled. Beck later said that there was unrest in the band.
“I’ve seen the end of the tunnel,” he told Rolling Stone in 2010.
Beck was friends with Hendrix and they performed together. Before Hendrix, most rock guitarists focused on a similar style and technical vocabulary. Hendrix smashed it.
“He came in and reset all the rules in one evening,” Beck told Guitar World.
Beck teamed up with legendary producer George Martin – known as the ‘fifth Beatle’ – to help create the genre-bending jazz classics ‘Blow by Blow’ (1975) and ‘Wired’ (1976). He teamed up with Seal on the Hendrix tribute “Stone Free” and formed a jazz-fusion group led by synthesizer Jan Hammer and honored by rockabilly guitarist Cliff Gallup on “Crazy Legs.” In 2016, he released “Loud Hailer”.
Beck’s guitar work can be heard on the soundtracks of films such as “Stomp the Yard”, “Shallow Hal”, “Casino”, “Honeymoon in Vegas”, “Twins”, “Observe and Report” and “Little Big League”. Beck recently completed a tour in support of his album with Depp “18” and was heard on Ozzy Osbourne’s album “Patient Number 9”.
Beck’s career never reached Clapton’s commercial highs. A perfectionist, he favored making critically well-received instrumental records and left the limelight for long stretches to enjoy his time restoring vintage cars. He and Clapton had an early strained relationship, but later became friends and toured together.
Why did the two wait four decades to tour together?
“Because we were all trying to be big bananas,” Beck told Rolling Stone in 2010. “Except I didn’t have the luxury of the hits that Eric has.”
Beck is survived by his wife, Sandra.