Jeff Beck, guitarist hailed one of the most iconic rock artists of the 1960s, has died. He was 78.
Beck’s representative confirmed in a statement that the legendary musician died after “suddenly” contracting an illness. He passed away peacefully on Tuesday (January 10).
“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,” reads the statement, shared on Beck’s social media channels on Wednesday (January 11). “His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”
Beck, who was born in England in 1944, was known for his “urgent, in-your-face guitar.” It was “so expressive that he didn’t need a singer,” according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Beck, a double Hall of Fame inductee (inducted as a solo artist in the performers category in 2009 by Jimmy Page, and as a member of the Yardbirds in the early 1990s), built his first guitar when he was 15 years old. He “learned the instrument inside and out before mastering everything from heavy metal to jazz,” the Hall of Fame remembers of the visionary artist.
Page was quick to join an outpouring of tributes to Beck on Wednesday: “The six stringed Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions. Jeff could channel music from the ethereal. His technique unique. His imaginations apparently limitless. Jeff I will miss you along with your millions of fans. Jeff Beck Rest in Peace.”
The GRAMMY award-winning musician launched what became a legendary, decades-long career in the mid 1960s and remained active until the end of his life. Beck was known for his work with the Yardbirds, which he joined to replace the band’s former guitarist, Eric Clapton, and rose to fame through his work with the band, Variety notes of his beginnings. He went on to establish the Jeff Beck Group, which featured soloist and now-superstar Rod Stewart, and solo work throughout his career.
Recently, his work included 18, a 13-track album that he released with actor Johnny Depp in summer of 2022. Another relatively recent release was the 11-track project Loud Hailer in 2016, which he wrote with guitarist Carmen Vandenberg and singer Rosie Bones (whom he met at a birthday party for Queen drummer Roger Taylor) and largely recorded from home. The project marked Beck’s first album in more than half a decade. He said at the time, per his bio: “I really wanted to make a statement about some of the nasty things I see going on in the world — greed, lies, injustice — and I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view.”
Speaking of working with both music and lyrics, Beck once said:
“You can set the mood with an instrumental, but you can’t really tell a story. That’s not what you would expect to hear from someone who once remarked, ‘Good riddance to singers.’ But the truth is, I play better when I play off the lyrics in a song.”
Beck is reportedly survived by his wife of nearly two decades, Sandra Cash.