Jeff Beck, the British guitar virtuoso who rose to prominence within the Nineteen Sixties as a member of the Yardbirds then went on to an adventurous profession as a genre-bending solo artist, died Jan. 10. He was 78.
A press release on his web site mentioned that Mr. Beck died “after immediately contracting bacterial meningitis.” Extra particulars weren’t instantly accessible.
Broadly thought-about one of many biggest guitarists in historical past, Mr. Beck was a grasp instrumentalist, shifting seamlessly between genres whereas recording albums that included laborious rock, heavy steel, jazz fusion, blues, funk and digital music. Taking part in a Fender Stratocaster with the amps turned approach up, he helped unleash new sonic prospects with the guitar, together with contemporaries together with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and his buddy Jimmy Web page.
“I do not care in regards to the guidelines,” he as soon as mentioned. “In reality, if I do not break the foundations no less than 10 occasions in each music then I am not doing my job correctly.”
Throughout his transient tenure with the Yardbirds, Mr. Beck helped pioneer the usage of suggestions and distortion, growing a hard-edged new sound that knowledgeable hits reminiscent of “Coronary heart Filled with Soul,” “Shapes of Issues” and “Over Beneath Sideways Down.” He later shaped the Jeff Beck Group, a rotating group of musicians that originally included singer Rod Stewart and bassist-guitarist Ronnie Wooden. That lineup was featured on his 1968 solo debut, “Fact,” which peaked at No. 15 in america and showcased his blues-influenced enjoying fashion, notably on a psychedelic cowl of Willie Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious.”
“At each break, Beck’s aqueous wah-wah tone makes his instrument sound prefer it’s speaking — Chicago blues upgraded for the age of the unhealthy journey,” Rolling Stone later wrote, together with the music on its checklist of the 100 biggest guitar tracks.
Mr. Beck appeared to agree with that evaluation, as soon as telling the journal: “That’s my complete factor, making an attempt to discover the blues to the utmost, actually. It’s within the blood.”
Mr. Beck obtained eight Grammy Awards and was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame, first as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 after which as a solo artist in 2009. However his standing as an excellent and ingenious musician was shadowed considerably by his fame as a moody egotist, a bandleader who struggled repeatedly to maintain his bands collectively. “My downside is that I’m not very skilled,” he mentioned. “I get bored in a short time, then I get irritable.”
After collaborating with Stewart, Mr. Beck labored with singers as assorted as Macy Grey, Buddy Man, Wynonna Judd, Cyndi Lauper and Luciano Pavarotti. He additionally recorded predominantly instrumental albums reminiscent of “Blow by Blow” (1975), which reached No. 4 on the Billboard chart, and joined supergroups together with Beck, Bogert & Appice, an influence trio that featured bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. Within the Eighties he performed with the Honeydrippers, a rock group that included Web page and his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Robert Plant.
Mr. Beck continued to make music, partnering with actor and musician Johnny Depp final 12 months to report the studio album “18.” However he additionally fell out of the limelight whereas avoiding interviews and turning down company sponsorships, cherishing his privateness and in search of to keep away from distractions. When the creators of the online game “Guitar Hero” requested him to be an avatar of their musical world, he was uninterested, telling the New York Occasions in 2010: “Who desires to be in a child’s recreation, like a toy store?”
Nonetheless, even when he pale from view, his followers and his friends by no means doubted his greatness. “Jeff Beck is one of the best guitar participant on the planet,” Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry informed the Occasions. “He’s head, fingers and ft above all the remainder of us, with the form of expertise that seems solely as soon as each technology or two.”
Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born in Wallington, in London’s southern suburbs, on June 24, 1944. When he was 6, he heard electrical guitarist Les Paul play “How Excessive the Moon” on the radio and requested his mom to inform him the identify of the instrument. “That’s for me,” he mentioned in response.
Mr. Beck realized on a borrowed guitar and made crude makes an attempt as a youngster to create his personal, as soon as making an attempt to bolt collectively cigar bins for a physique. On the Wimbledon Faculty of Artwork, now a part of the College of the Arts London, he performed in R&B and rock bands, refining his approach whereas experimenting with genres.
His break got here by way of one other younger musician on the London scene, Web page, who turned down a suggestion to hitch the Yardbirds as a substitute for Clapton, recommending Mr. Beck as a substitute. Mr. Beck went on to carry out on their solely U.Ok. studio album, which turned generally known as “Roger the Engineer” (1966). He lasted solely 20 months with the band earlier than shifting on to work as a solo artist, whereas struggling to translate his concepts into music.
“Everybody thinks of the Nineteen Sixties as one thing they actually weren’t,” he mentioned. “It was the frustration interval of my life. The digital gear simply wasn’t as much as the sounds I had in my head.”
His expertise and character had been such that members of Pink Floyd thought-about asking Mr. Beck to hitch the band, based on drummer Nick Mason’s 2004 memoir, “Inside Out,” however “none of us had the nerve to ask.”
Survivors embody his spouse, Sandra Money, whom he married in 2005.
Emily Langer contributed to this report.