Jeff Beck Dead at 78
Guitar virtuoso and English rock titan Jeff Beck, who pushed the boundaries of blues, jazz and rock 'n roll and influenced generations, has died at age 78.
“On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing,” a statement from the guitarist’s publicity firm reads. “After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.
“Jeff was such a nice person and an outstanding iconic, genius guitar player — there will never be another Jeff Beck,” Tony Iommi, guitarist for Black Sabbath wrote on Twitter.
Beck first rose to prominence as a member of the Yardbirds, where he replaced Eric Clapton. Beck played with the band from 1965-66, and his tenure briefly overlapped with Jimmy Page, who initially played bass in the group and then switched to second guitar. With Beck in the band, the Yardbirds scored several Top 10 hits in their native United Kingdom, including “Heart Full of Soul,” “Evil Hearted You” and “Shapes of Things.”
After being fired from the Yardbirds, Beck embarked on a brief solo career and then formed the Jeff Beck Group, which included Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on bass. He reached the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 with late-‘60s albums like Truth and Beck-Ola. His major solo breakthrough came in 1975 with Blow by Blow, a mostly instrumental album that peaked at No. 4 in the U.S. and went platinum.
“Jeff Beck is the best guitar player on the planet," Joe Perry, the lead guitarist of Aerosmith, told The New York Times in 2010. "He is head, hands and feet above all the rest of us, with the kind of talent that appears only once every generation or two.”
After releasing 1976’s Wired, Beck’s output became more sporadic, and he experienced a decline in commercial success. Still, he remained a classic rock fixture and was widely cited by fans, critics and musical peers as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His most recent release was the Johnny Depp collaborative album 18, released in 2022.
“I like an element of chaos in music. That feeling is the best thing ever, as long as you don’t have too much of it. It’s got to be in balance. I just saw Cirque du Soleil, and it struck me as complete organized chaos,” he told Guitar World in 2014. “If I could turn that into music, it’s not far away from what my ultimate goal would be, which is to delight people with chaos and beauty at the same time.”
Beck won eight Grammy Awards and was 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 fifth in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Beck is survived by his wife, Sandra.