Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant pays tribute to Jeff Beck’s ‘enormous’ musical gift

Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant has said Jeff Beck’s “gift was enormous” as he remembered the “limitless energy and enthusiasm” the late guitarist brought to projects.

The singer joins titans within the world of rock music who have paid tribute to Beck following the news of his death aged 78, after contracting bacterial meningitis.

Sir Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood also recalled playing alongside the “groundbreaking” guitarist, and Alice Cooper described him as the “greatest of all time”.

Jeff Beck death
Jeff Beck died aged 78 after contracting bacterial meningitis (Yui Mok/PA)

Beck collaborated with countless musicians throughout his career including Plant who he featured alongside on tracks released under a band named The Honeydrippers in the 1980s, a post-Led Zeppelin side project for Plant.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Plant said: “This is tragic news. Hard to take in. Jeff always appeared timeless, ever-evolving.

“He embraced project after project with limitless energy and enthusiasm. He surfaced in an extraordinary time. He took his place side by side with the virtuosos of the period, his mates.

“The scene was on fire, he introduced a cool template moving from Yardbird to Bolero to Truth, Beck-Ola with Rod (Stewart) the perfect foil… the singer and guitarist syndrome, plenty of sparks, great results.

Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Awards – London
Former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant has paid tribute to the late Jeff Beck (Matt Crossick/PA)

“He cooked up magic through all the passing eras, always up for the next, unknown, unlikely collision, back in time to homage Cliff Gallup, forward to Johnny Depp.

“His gift was enormous. He was funny, challenging and eager. My feelings are with Sandra today. RP.”

The trailblazing musician first rose to prominence with rock band The Yardbirds and went on to have a successful solo career, fronting Beck, Bogert & Appice, and The Jeff Beck Group.

Cooper recalled opening for The Yardbirds at the beginning of his career as he paid tribute to Beck.

In a statement to PA, he said: “When I was 16 years old, The Spiders, who became the original Alice Cooper band, opened for the Yardbirds.

“That night I experienced the greatest guitar player I had ever heard.

“Half a century later Jeff Beck is still the greatest guitarist, PERIOD – The greatest of all time.

“He was a friend, and there will NEVER be another Jeff Beck. Ever.”

Sir Rod, who had a breakout moment in his career after joining The Jeff Beck Group in 1967, described the guitarist as “on another planet”.

Sharing a picture of the pair to Instagram, Sir Rod added: “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.”

Wood, a key member of The Rolling Stones, also shared pictures of them, along with other famous faces including Johnny Depp and Slash.

“Now Jeff has gone, I feel like one of my band of brothers has left this world, and I’m going to dearly miss him,” he wrote.

“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 The 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.”

Beck was born Geoffrey Arnold Beck in Wallington, Surrey, to parents Arnold and Ethel Beck and developed a passion for music as a child.

A chance meeting with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page led Beck to join the Yardbirds in 1965 – replacing the band’s former guitarist Eric Clapton.

Page and Beck remained friends, performing alongside each other throughout their careers and Page inducted his fellow guitarist into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Paying tribute, Page said: “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.”

Clapton, who later performed alongside Beck on a number of occasions including co-headlining shows at The O2 in London in 2010, also paid tribute to his fellow guitar great.

He shared a photo of Beck to his Twitter and simply wrote: “Always and ever.”

Beck’s time with the Yardbirds was short, lasting close to two years before he embarked on a solo career, and released his first solo single, Hi Ho Silver Lining, in 1969.

After initially finding limited success as a solo artist, Beck formed The Jeff Beck Group, originally consisting of Sir Rod on vocals, Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.

He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice – first as a member of The Yardbirds in 1992 and later as a solo artist in 2009 – and won eight Grammy awards during his career.

Beck has played with countless other industry heavyweights including Nile Rodgers with whom he collaborated on the album Flash, and Sir Mick Jagger – playing on the Rolling Stones singer’s 1987 solo album Primitive Cool and later working with the likes of Roger Waters and Jon Bon Jovi.

Beck also contributed to Hans Zimmer’s score for the film Days Of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise.

His career continued as he spent the 2010s touring extensively, including with former Beach Boys member Brian Wilson.

Johnny Depp in London
Johnny Depp at the Royal Albert Hall, London, appearing alongside Jeff Beck last year (Raph Pour-Hashemi/PA)

Last year he made headlines when he announced a collaborative album with Johnny Depp shortly after the Hollywood actor’s defamation battle with ex-wife Amber Heard drew to a close.

The pair first met in 2016 and began recording the album in 2019 while Depp was also playing with Cooper’s supergroup Hollywood Vampires.

In 2022 Beck released a full length album, titled 18, with Depp and the pair played a number of live gigs together.

His family statement announcing his death, posted to Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday, read: “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.

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