Legendary Rock Guitarist Jeff Beck Has Died, Age 78

Jeff Beck dies 78
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Jeff Beck dies 78
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Photo Credit: Egghead06 / CC by 4.0

Jeff Beck, legendary guitar innovator whose career spanned decades, has died at age 78.

One of the most influential and admired guitarists in rock history, Jeff Beck, has died at age 78 in a hospital near his rural home in southern England. His publicist Melissa Dragich said the cause of death was bacterial meningitis.

“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,” reads the official statement. “His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”

Recently, Beck completed a tour for his collaborative album with Johnny Depp, 18. He is an eight-time Grammy winner, seven for instrumental performances and one for his work on Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project.

An imaginative solo artist, Beck joined the Yardbirds in 1965 as a replacement for Eric Clapton, bringing an adventurous new sound to their pop hits with largely unprecedented uses of feedback and fuzz. After his exit from the Yardbirds, he established his short-lived band, the Jeff Beck Group, fronted by vocalist Rod Stewart before he became a solo star.

In the ’70s, Beck assembled a more R&B-leaning version of his group and briefly formed a short-lived trio with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. In the mid-’70s, Beck released a pair of instrumental albums, Blow By Blow, with longtime Beatles producer George Martin and Wired, which saw him dipping into jazz fusion. 

A notorious perfectionist in the studio, Jeff Beck became increasingly temperamental through the ’80s. He experimented with various genres and sounds, from rockabilly to techno/electronica influences and ambient music. Afflicted with tinnitus, Beck restricted himself to benefit concert appearances before sidelining himself entirely for several years.

Twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was first acknowledged as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and then as a solo performer in 2009. 

His 2010 album Emotion & Commotion became his highest-charting release in 25 years. At the Grammys the following year, his original “Hammerhead” and a rendition of Puccini’s aria “Nessun Dorma” received awards for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and Best Pop Instrumental Performance, respectively. Beck also received a Best Pop Collaboration award for his work with India.Arie on Hancock’s Imagine.

His musical collaboration with actor Johnny Depp began in 2020 with a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation,” which they had started working on before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

“We weren’t expecting to release it so soon, but given all the hard days and true ‘isolation’ that people are going through in these challenging times, we decided now might be the right time to let you all hear it,” Beck wrote at the time.

Beck was also featured on two tracks from Ozzy Osbourne’s 2022 album Patient Number 9, the title track and “A Thousand Shades.”