Sir Paul McCartney said Jeff Beck “played some of the best guitar music ever to come out of Great Britain” following the 78-year-old rock guitarist’s death.
The former member of the Beatles, Sir Paul, 80, called him a “lovely man with a wicked sense of humour” as Queen’s Sir Brian May and the Who’s Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, among other rock legends, paid tribute to one of their own.
Beck, who died after contracting bacterial meningitis, is known for his work with the Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group and performed alongside musical heavyweights including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
In a post on Instagram on Thursday, Sir Paul said: “Jeff Beck was a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour who played some of the best guitar music ever to come out of Great Britain.
“He was a superb technician and could strip down his guitar and put it back together again in time for the show.
“His unique style of playing was something that no one could match, and I will always remember the great times we had together.
“He would come over to dinner at our place or he and his wife, Sandra, would host an evening at their house.
“Jeff had immaculate taste in most things and was an expert at rebuilding his collection of cars. His no-nonsense attitude to the music business was always so refreshing and I will cherish forever the moments we spent together.
“Jeff Beck has left the building and it is a lonelier place without him.”
Sir Brian told his followers on Thursday in a video on Instagram: “This is such an extraordinary loss and he was such an extraordinary person.
“Jeff was completely and utterly unique kind of musician, which was impossible to define and I was absolutely in awe of him.”
Sir Brian said he was his “hero” and “major inspiration” since school as Beck was “already” doing “extraordinary things” in the Tridents and then in The Yardbirds.
He said Beck’s Where Were You is “unbelievable” and “possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded” alongside Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing.
Sir Brian added: “(It’s) so sensitive, so beautiful, so incredibly creative and unlike anything you’ve ever heard anywhere else.”
He also said: “I saw him play so many times, always with my jaw on the ground thinking, how does he do that?
“I often think it must have been like, being around Mozart and seeing that incredible genius at work and wondering where it could possibly come from? How can he be that great?”
Sir Brian said he was often felt “shy” around Beck and wrote his song The Guv’nor about him for his solo album.
He added: “Jeff Beck is so unique, so influential on every guitarist I’ve ever met in my life. The loss is incalculable.
“It’s so sad not having them in the world anymore. I still can’t quite compute it.”
In a statement, the Who guitarist Townshend said in tribute: “The Miles Davis of rock guitar, he will never be forgotten, and those of us who were his friends feel lucky to have known him.”
He added: “Most of all, Jeff was easy to be around, so natural as a musician with such a good ear for melody, as soon as he heard something, he could play it, it fell under his fingers.”
Townsend and Beck last worked together when Beck played an orchestral version of the Who’s hit Love Reign O’er Me for a BBC concert in London in 2012.
Daltrey said: “Jeff was my favourite lead guitarist, always original, and a big loss to the music scene.”
Beck’s 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.”