British ‘guitar god’ Jeff Beck is dead
Jeff Beck was always pushing the limits of what was possible on the guitar. “I made the strangest noises I could,” he said himself. He became known with the Yardbirds and became famous as a soloist.
He was considered the “guitar god” and played with the most prominent musicians – now the British musician Jeff Beck is dead. He died suddenly at the age of 78 from bacterial meningitis, his family announced last night. Beck was considered one of the most influential guitarists in history.
“No one played guitar like Jeff,” tweeted Kiss guitarist Gene Simmons. The BBC commended: “Its tone, presence and most importantly volume redefined guitar music in the 1960s, influencing movements such as heavy metal, jazz rock and even punk.”
In the summer, Beck released an album with Hollywood star Johnny Depp and then went on a tour.
Fascinated by rock n’ roll and blues
Born on June 24, 1944 in a south London suburb, his mother wanted Geoffrey Beck, as his real name was, to learn to play the piano. But young Jeff was so fascinated by the American rock ‘n’ roll and blues legends that he built himself a guitar out of cigar boxes. There were therefore many arguments with his parents, as the musician later recalled in the music magazine “Rolling Stone”.
But they wouldn’t have stopped him. “I suppose they thought, ‘If he’s got the guitar, at least he won’t go out and steal,'” he said. “The only friends I had were pretty shady.”
Beck played with various bands in and around London until Jimmy Page recommended him to the Yardbirds in 1965 to replace their guitarist Eric Clapton. Beck was considered a string magician who created hitherto unheard sounds with dexterity, technical tricks and refinements. He was fascinated by avant-garde and experimental sounds – “I made the strangest noises I could,” he said later. “That’s the point, isn’t it? I don’t care about the rules.”
Never megastar – despite musical brilliance
Beck coined the distinctive riffs of the most famous Yardbirds hits “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Shapes of Things”. In 1966 Page joined as second lead guitarist and took over when Beck fell out with the band during a US tour. It was the first in a series of unpredictable decisions that meant he never rose to megastardom, despite his musical brilliance.
After that Beck played together with exceptional musicians like Rod Steward and made it into the British charts with the singles “Hi Ho Silver Lining” and “Tallyman”. But after two albums as the Jeff Beck Group and only three weeks before their planned appearance in Woodstock, he broke up his band.
He later worked in various formations with Mick Jagger, Roger Waters, Brian May, Paul Rodgers and Stevie Wonder as well as with Tina Turner on her “Private Dancer” album. He played his way through the most diverse musical styles from heavy blues to pop to rock, funk, trance and of course jazz with virtuosity. Only one thing remained: He kept reinventing the sound. He has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, in 1992 for his performances with the Yardbirds and in 2009 as a solo artist. He also received eight Grammys.
Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett tweeted that Beck was “a powerful influence on me and a lot of others.” His death is devastating news. “He made the electric guitar sing.” Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger called Beck “one of the greatest guitarists in the world”. Rock legend Ozzy Osborne said it was an honor to know and play with Beck.
Singer Paul Young paid tribute to Beck as “the guitarist’s guitarist”. Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi praised Beck as an “extraordinary icon, brilliant guitarist”. There will never be a musician like him again. And Rod Stewart wrote: “Jeff Beck was from another planet.”