Jeff Beck death: Legendary rock guitarist dies aged 78

Jeff Beck has died, at the age of 78.

The legendary rock guitarist, who played with the Yardbirds and fronted the Jeff Beck group, died on Tuesday (10 January) after “suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis”, his representative said.

“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,” the statement said.

“His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”

The English musician, whose fingers and thumbs were famously insured for £7m, was an eight-time Grammy winner, earning his first seven for instrumental performances and his eighth in 2009 for his work on Herbie Hancock’s studio album The Imagine Project.

Beck first gained early fame in 1965 after joining the rock band The Yardbirds as a replacement for Eric Clapton. While he only stayed with them for 18 months, he played nearly all of the group’s hits.

He later fronted the Jeff Beck Group with lead vocalist Rod Stewart. However, it quickly fell apart, lasting for only two albums.

During the 1970s, Beck created a second group, Beck, Bogart & Appice, a more R&B-oriented version of his former group. Established with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, the power trio were short-lived.

Often considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Beck pioneered jazz-rock. Over the course of his career, his experimentation with distortion and fuzz effects paved the way for heavier subgenres like psych-rock and heavy metal.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice in 1992 and acknowledged as part of the Yardbirds, he snubbed the band in his speech, saying: “They kicked me out… f*** them!”

Beck then entered the hall in 2009 as a solo artist.

(Clive Gee/PA) (PA Wire)
(Clive Gee/PA) (PA Wire)

Beck recently completed a tour supporting 18, his album with actor and musician Johnny Depp.

The pair said they titled their album 18 after the chemistry they felt working together. “We would joke about how we felt 18 again, so that just became the album title, too,” Beck said in a statement.

Many colleagues, friends, fans, and fellow music industry legends have paid tribute to Beck.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour wrote, “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 … He will be forever in our hearts.”

Ozzy Osbourne was one of the first to pay tribute to Beck on social media, writing: “I can’t express how saddened I am to hear of Jeff Beck’s passing. What a terrible loss for his family, friends and his many fans.

“It was such an honor to have known Jeff and an incredible honor to have had him play on my most recent album, Patient Number 9. Long live Jeff Beck.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Johnny Marr called him “a pioneer and one of the all time greats”, while The Kinks’ Dave Davies tweeted: “I’m heartbroken he looked in fine shape to me. Playing great he was in great shape.

“I’m shocked and bewildered … it don’t make sense I don’t get it. He was a good friend and a great guitar player.”

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger also shared his condolences, tweeting: “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.”

Jimmy Page wrote: “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.”