Queen's Brian May posts emotional, moving tribute to his friend and hero Jeff Beck: "The loss is incalculable, it's so sad not having him in the world anymore"

Jeff Beck and Brian May onstage together in London, 2011
Jeff Beck and Brian May perform onstage at the Freddie For A Day 65th birthday anniversary party at The Savoy, London on September 5, 2011 (Image credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Queen guitarist Brian May has paid an emotional, and moving, tribute to his friend Jeff Beck, who passed away on January 10, aged 78.

May recorded a five-minute video tribute to the late guitarist, who he describes as his "hero", on Instagram, captioning the post 'Thoughts on the sad loss of a guitar genius - and friend. Jeff Beck.'

The guitarist's touching tribute begins, "I guess I'm struggling today as everyone wants to talk about Jeff, of course, and they want to talk to me, but I don't really feel up to talking to the press and media about it. I guess I don't feel ready: this is such an extraordinary loss and he was such an extraordinary person, it's hard to process the fact that he's not here, apart from process what I would like to say. 

"Jeff was completely and utterly unique," May continues, "and the kind of musician who was impossible to define, and I was absolutely in awe of him. He was only a couple of years older than me, and came from the same area where I came from, but he was a hero to me all along, doing things which I kind of dreamed of doing: when I was at school, even, he was already up there, in The Tridents and then in The Yardbirds, doing extraordinary things, and a major, major inspiration for me to try and do the same... not the same, but to give myself a voice the way he had. 

"If you wanna hear his depth of emotion and sound and phrasing and the way he could touch your soul, listen to Where Were You off the ...Guitar Shop album, just Google 'Where Were You Jeff Beck' and sit down and listen to it for four minutes: it's unbelievable, it's possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded, probably alongside Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing, so sensitive, so beautiful, so incredibly creative and unlike anything you've ever heard anywhere else. Yes, of course he had his influences too, but he brought an amazing voice to rock music which will never, ever be emulated, or equalled.

"He came from my area, so he was like a local boy. I saw him play so many times, always with my jaw on the ground, thinking, How does he do that? I often think it must have been like being around Mozart, and seeing that incredible genius at work, and wondering where it could possibly come from, how could he be that great? If you were with Jeff, if you were around his house, he'd come out from the garage, having been under one of his cars for the last few hours, his fingers all covered in grease and muck, looking like he'd just kinda crawled out from a ditch somewhere, and then he'd pick up the guitar and this beautiful, beautiful, sensitive music would come out. 

"I think I was very shy, I didn't really know how to talk to him, because I couldn't quite follow him, he wasn't an easy person for me... maybe because I was in so much awe of him... but I was never at ease, and I wrote him a song, well, I wrote a song about him, called The Guv'nor, for one of my solo albums, [1998's Another World], and he came over to my place, here, in the studio, played it with me, and we had a laugh, and he played some incredible stuff: again, my jaw dropped. I couldn't really pick up a guitar when he was in the room because he was so incredible, I just wanted to watch and listen. So he played on the track, and he was like, 'Oh, yeah, whatever'. And I don't think I could ever put into words exactly how much I did revere him, I hope I gave him the picture. [Laughs] I don't know if he knew!

May continues sadly, "But I feel like I wasn't a good enough friend to him, and that's one of the things that happens I suppose, but particularly in this case, I feel like there were so many times I could have rung him up, and I wish I had, to be a proper friend.

"But Jeff Beck is so unique, so influential, on every guitarist I've ever met in my life. The loss is incalculable, it's so sad not having him in the world anymore. I still can't quite compute it in my head, so this is as far as I can get at the moment I'm afraid. 

"But I was listening last night to my old Yardbirds albums, which is the first time he kinda started to put out there what he could do - Over, Under, Sideways, Down... have a listen to that - and Shapes Of Things... oh my God, when you get to the solo in the original Yardbirds version of Shapes Of Things, it's like something takes off like a space rocket, no-one had ever heard something like that before. Instead of the guitar sounding like a guitar, it sounded like something between a sitar and some strange wind instrument, just listen to it: it blew my mind at the time, as one of the major things which made me want to play guitar, as I do, and take it up as a career if you like, but that will always, always stick in my mind... Shapes Of Things, Where Were You from the ...Guitar Shop album, so many incredible things he did.

"He was wild, he was unquantifiable, and extraordinarily difficult to understand, but one of the greatest guitar geniuses the world has ever seen, and will ever see. God bless you Jeff, miss you."

Watch the tribute below:

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Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, David Gilmour, Billy Gibbons and Ronnie Wood are among the other musicians who have paid tribute to Beck's memory and music

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.