Jeff Beck dead at 78

Jeff Beck holding a guitar
(Image credit: Joby Sessions/Guitarist Magazine)

Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck has died aged 78, it has been confirmed. According to a statement shared across Beck's social media channels by representatives of his family, his death comes after a short battle with bacterial meningitis.

"On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing," the statement reads. "After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday [Tuesday January 10]. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss."

Beck was born in Wallington in southwest London in 1944, and was inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing How High The Moon by Les Paul on the radio.  

"He was a profound influence on me when I was growing up," Beck told Classic Rock in 2014. "His records were treasured. I absorbed all his tonal variations. His music was memorable, not just a barbaric rock’n’roll thing. He had class. His guitar bends were delicious and the runs were fabulous."

After playing in a number of local bands, Beck joined The Yardbirds to replace Eric Clapton in 1965. He played guitar on their Roger The Engineer album the following year, but was let go after one too many no-shows on tour. He went on to front The Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert & Appice

Beck was also a prolific solo artist, releasing albums under his own name in seven decades, the most recent of which was 18, recorded with actor/musician Johnny Depp and released in July 2022. 

Over the course of his career Beck become regarded as one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of all time, incorporating elements of blues and jazz into his playing, and developing a characteristic, hard-edged style. He could also shred with the best of them. 

"I've got a fascination with musical sound and what that does to me," he told Classic Rock. "One minute I’m angry at some new rubbish, then I’m weeping buckets at Christine Johnson singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. Why does that happen? Why do I get such a buzz out of Nessun Dorma, or Pavane by Ravel, and Mahler’s Fifth? 

"The fun thing for a musician like me is I can go anywhere I want. I can play Puccini; I’m not tied down to a rock formula. People can’t expect me to be like Led Zep 2,3,4. I don’t do that. That isn’t fulfilling. I’m not doing Guns N’ Roses mark 20."

He was also a serial collaborator, playing on tracks by Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Kate Bush, Duff McKagan, ZZ Top, Joe Cocker, Brian May, Pretenders, Roger Waters and Jon Bon Jovi - to name but a few - and he most recently featured on Ozzy Osbourne's Patient Number 9 album, playing on two tracks. 

Over the course of his career, Beck won eight Grammy awards - seven for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and one for a 2010 recording of John Lennon's Imagine, recorded alongside Pink, Seal, India Arie, Konono N°1 and Oumou Sangare. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992, and as a solo artist in 2009. 

The following year he returned to his source, paying tribute to Les Paul on the live album Rock 'n' Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul), recorded alongside Imelda May and her band. But despite being a go-to musician for rock's good and great, Beck never joined another group. It wasn't for lack of opportunity. 

"I’m not a ‘joiner’, really," he told us. "Pink Floyd wanted me but they didn’t have the nerve to pop the question. And then there’s The Rolling Stones [when they were looking for a replacement for Mick Taylor who quit in ’74]. I told them I don’t do auditions. And I wouldn’t have fitted in. I never had any regrets."

The rock world pays tribute to Jeff Beck.  

Posted by jeffbeck on 

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What is Jeff Beck's most famous song?

Jeff Beck's incredible career lasted across seven different decades, and as well as the stellar back catalogue of solo material he penned in that time, he worked alongside countless rock, blues, soul, pop and heavy metal greats. Amongst Jeff Beck's most famous solo songs are Cause We've Ended As Lovers. Written by none other than Stevie Wonder, the song was released on Beck's 1975 album Blow By Blow. In terms of the Yardbirds, Beck's most famous contribution to that hugely influential group may well have been Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, released in 1966 and also featuring contributions from a certain Jimmy Page. Chances are, you'll also have heard his version of Hi Ho Silver Lining, a song written by Scott English and Larry Weiss. Beck did, however, often disown that particular number.

What is Jeff Beck's best album? 

A good question, and one we've answered more extensively in our look at the Jeff Beck albums you must own. While the likes of 1975's Blow By Blow and 1968's Truth are classics and both hugely influential for the blues in their own specific ways, you could actually do a lot worse than check out the huge, three-disc Beckology set that was released in 1991. A comprehensive guide to his pre-90s output, it'll give you the perfect start to getting to know Jeff Beck's greatest moments.

Did Jeff Beck play with David Bowie?

Jeff Beck famously made a surprise appearance with David Bowie at the latter's final concert as Ziggy Stardust, which took place July 3, 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Jeff Beck was introduced by Bowie and played on a medley of three songs - Bowie's own The Jean Genie, Beatles classic Love Me Do and Chuck Berry's Around And Around.

Did Jeff Beck play on Superstition? 

Yes, Jeff Beck contributed to one of Stevie Wonder's most famous songs, and not only that, but he almost released his own version first. Bizarrely, it was actually a drum beat that Jeff Beck happened to be playing during some downtime during a writing session with Wonder that the MoTown icon latched onto, creating the unforgettable hook that'd seal a classic anthem in the making. Wonder was originally set to let Beck release his own version of the track first, but ultimately released it as the lead single from his 1972 album, Talking Book. The song went to number one on the Billboard 200, and the rest is history. Beck's version would see the light of day a year later on the Beck, Bogert, Appice album.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site. 

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