Influential English Guitarist Jeff Beck Dies at 78

He died after contracting bacterial meningitis

Photo: Takahiro Kyono

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jan 11, 2023

Jeff Beck — the English guitarist who rose to prominence with the Yardbirds and recorded with Stevie Wonder, Ozzy Osbourne, Kate Bush, Mick Jagger and many more — has died. A statement made on behalf of the artist's family via his social media channels notes that Beck passed away yesterday (January 10) after "suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis." He was 78.

Considered one of rock music's most influential lead guitarists, Beck has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: first as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992, and as a solo artist in 2009. Across a career of over four decades, the artist won eight Grammy awards out of 16 total nominations.

Beck joined the Yardbirds in 1965 as the successor of Eric Clapton, a recommendation made by a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page. Later that decade, Beck was also asked to join Pink Floyd following the departure of Syd Barrett (though in his 2004 memoir, drummer Nick Mason recalled how "none of us had the nerve to ask him"), and into the 1970s, he auditioned to become a member of the Rolling Stones. 

As a solo artist, Beck is best remembered for a pair of instrumental rock albums released in the mid-'70s. 1975's Blow By Blow featured string arrangements from "fifth Beatle" George Martin (who also produced), and a pair of songs written by Stevie Wonder, following Beck's 1972 appearance on his legendary Talking Book album.

1976 follow-up Wired, also produced by Martin, saw Beck cover Charles Mingus staple "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and work alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist (and future "Miami Vice Theme" composer) Jan Hammer.

Beck had recently been touring with Johnny Depp in support of their collaborative 2022 album, 18.

This is a developing story.

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