Jeff Beck, the legendary guitarist who played with the Yardbirds and fronted his own the Jeff Beck Group, has died at the age of 78. According to a statement from his publicist, Beck died yesterday (Jan. 10). The artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and later as a solo artist in 2009.
“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. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”
Beck was born on June 24, 1944, in the Wallington section of South London, and became fascinated with the sound of the electric guitar at a young age. Soon, he was playing the instrument himself, and later through his sister met fellow future guitar legend Jimmy Page while they were teenagers.
After a playing in a succession of bands, Beck replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds in 1965 after being suggested by Page, who himself would join the band shortly thereafter. Beck’s year-and-a-half stint dovetailed with the Yardbirds’ biggest successes, including the hit singles “Heart Full of Soul,” “Evil Hearted You,” “Shapes of Things,” and “Under Over Sideways Down.”
Beck was fired due to personal conflicts with the other members of the group, but playing continued to shine on the 1966 instrumental solo single “Beck’s Bolero,” which influenced generations of fledgling guitarists. By January 1967, he’d created the Jeff Beck Group, featuring a murderer’s row of vocalist Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The ensemble split in the summer of 1969 after two albums, with Stewart and Wood promptly forming the Faces.
“Jeff Beck was on another planet,” Stewart wrote on Twitter. “He took me and Ronnie Wood to the USA in the late 60s in his band the Jeff Beck Group and we haven’t looked back since. He was one of the few guitarists that when playing live would actually listen to me sing and respond. Jeff, you were the greatest, my man. Thank you for everything. RIP.”
“I feel like one of my band of brothers has left this world, and I’m going to dearly miss him,” added Wood on Twitter. “I’m sending much sympathy to Sandra, his family, and all who loved him. I want to thank him for all our early days together in Jeff Beck Group, conquering America. Musically, we were breaking all the rules. It was fantastic, groundbreaking rock ’n’ roll! Listen to the incredible track ‘Plynth’ in his honour. Jeff, I will always love you. God bless.”
In the early ’70s, Beck played with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice in a trio billed by their individual last names, recorded a hit album, Blow by Blow, with Beatles producer George Martin in 1975, and dabbled in fusion with Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Narada Michael Walden and keyboardist Jan Hammer on 1976’s Wired.
Beck and Clapton harnessed their powers for a handful the 1981 charity concerts the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, and in 1984, Beck contributed a memorable guitar solo and music video cameo in Stewart’s “Infatuation,” which hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The pair re-teamed the following year on Beck’s album Flash, which spawned a hit cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.”
Other notable work included his guitar solo on Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory,” and contributions to Roger Waters’ Amused to Death (1992), Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes (1993), Toots and the Maytals’ True Love (2004), and Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project (2010). He toured with the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Al Jardine in 2013, and released his final solo album, Loud Hailer, in 2016.
Last year, Beck teamed with Johnny Depp for the album 18, and the pair also toured together. Beck’s last live appearance was with Depp on Nov. 12 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev. The artist is also up for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance Grammys next month for his work on the Ozzy Osbourne song “Patient Number 9.” He’s a previous seven-time winner in the Grammy instrumental categories.
A number of musicians have paid tribute to Beck in social media posts below.
Saddened to hear Jeff Beck has passed away. I was lucky to see him once and I stood in awe of his genius. Thank you, Jeff, for being amazing to us guitar players… pic.twitter.com/f680ldCgQ5
— Mike McCready (@MikeMcCreadyPJ) January 11, 2023
Rest In Peace @jeffbeckmusic ….you always treated me and @SuHolmesMcKagan with kindness. A DECENT and special man….
— Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan) January 11, 2023
I’m so sad to hear about Jeff Beck passing. Jeff was a genius guitar player, and me and my band got to see it close up when we toured with him in 2013. One of the highlights we did was “Danny Boy” – we both loved that song. Love & Mercy to Jeff’s family. pic.twitter.com/eZFHpHgiKt
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) January 11, 2023
I can’t express how saddened I am to hear of @JeffBeckMusic’s passing. What a terrible loss for his family, friends & his many fans. It was such an honor to have known Jeff & an incredible honor to have had him play on my most recent album, #PatientNumber9.
Long live #JeffBeck pic.twitter.com/hG6O9tzfij
— Ozzy Osbourne (@OzzyOsbourne) January 11, 2023
With the death of Jeff Beck we have lost a wonderful man and one of the greatest guitar players in the world. We will all miss him so much. pic.twitter.com/u8DYQrLNB7
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) January 11, 2023
Jeff Beck was like no one else. It wasn’t just skills and soul, he had his own vocabulary. A great musician like this leaves such a void. RIP JB
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) January 11, 2023
RIP Jeff Beck. A pioneer and one of the all time greats. #jeffbeck pic.twitter.com/h7bTL3ZaxA
— Johnny Marr (@Johnny_Marr) January 11, 2023
I was totally shocked to hear the very sad news of Jeff Beck’s passing. Jeff was such a nice person and an outstanding iconic, genius guitar player – there will never be another Jeff Beck. His playing was very special & distinctively brilliant! He will be missed. RIP Jeff -Tony pic.twitter.com/i6BGdqTUKU
— Tony Iommi (@tonyiommi) January 11, 2023
I am devastated to hear the news of the death of my friend and hero Jeff Beck, whose music has thrilled and inspired me and countless others for so many years.
Polly‘s and my thoughts go out to his lovely wife Sandra.
He will be forever in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/369rHU7BCX
— David Gilmour (@davidgilmour) January 11, 2023
Jeff Beck was on another planet . He took me and Ronnie Wood to the USA in the late 60s in his band the Jeff Beck Group
and we haven’t looked back since . pic.twitter.com/uS7bbWsHgW
— Sir Rod Stewart (@rodstewart) January 11, 2023
WOW. What awful news. Jeff Beck, one of the all time guitar masters has died. From The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group on, he blazed a trail impossible to follow. Play on now and forever. @jeffbeckmusic pic.twitter.com/8LVeq47wxx
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) January 11, 2023
Heartbreaking news to report the late, great Jeff Back has sadly passed. No one played guitar like Jeff. Please get ahold of the first two Jeff Beck Group albums and behold greatness. RIP. pic.twitter.com/3qnPOCyhUj
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) January 11, 2023
Shocked to hear of the sudden death of Jeff Beck. Truly one of the greats. First time I saw him was in 1966 with the Yardbirds. Brilliant, unique guitarist. RIP pic.twitter.com/qaeJHGJymM
— Geezer Butler (@geezerbutler) January 11, 2023
I’m heartbroken he looked in fine shape to me. Playing great he was in great shape. I’m shocked and bewilderedDeepest sympathy to his wife friends close ones I’m bewildered Jeff Beck it don’t make sense I don’t get it. He was a good friend and a great guitar player
— Dave Davies (@davedavieskinks) January 11, 2023
Devastating news about the loss of much loved, influential guitar legend Jeff Beck. He made the electric guitar sing… a powerful influence on myself and many others.
— Steve Hackett (@HackettOfficial) January 11, 2023
He was a great and innovative guitar player . Jeff Beck
— Dave Davies (@davedavieskinks) January 11, 2023