Jeff Beck, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Influential Guitarist, Passes Away

Tony Dejak

Jeff Beck, whose 1960s work with The Yardbirds and later The Jeff Beck Group revolutionized rock guitar, passed away on January 10th 2023 from bacterial meningitis. Beck was 78.


Beck first came to prominence in 1965 when Jimmy Page, who had known Beck since high school, recommended him to serve as Eric Clapton’s replacement in The Yardbirds. While Beck’s musical roots were firmly in the blues, he was less of a purist than Clapton. Beck was among the first guitarists to embrace intentional distortion and feedback as part of his sonic palette. Although he derisively described his fuzz tone on “Heart Full of Soul,” released in June 1965, as sounding like a bee farting, it remains a seminal moment in rock’s development for popularizing a harsher, heavier sound than previously envisioned by most everyone.



After being fired by The Yardbirds in mid-1966 due to being nearly impossible to work with, Beck went on to form the first incarnation of The Jeff Beck Group. With talents such as Rod Stewart on lead vocal, Ronnie Woods on bass, and Nicky Hopkins on piano, The Jeff Beck Group’s experimental heavy blues should have conquered the world. It didn’t, as constant fighting and other silliness led to its disintegration. Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin, which started shortly after The Jeff Beck Group, did conquer the world.




After an early 1970s second iteration of The Jeff Beck Group made no great commercial impact, Beck embraced jazz/rock with 1975’s “Blow by Blow” and the following year’s “Wired.” He continued to record and tour when the mood struck, his last album “18” with Johnny Depp being released in 2022.



Although he never obtained the beyond superstar status of Clapton or Page, Beck was equally vital in rock’s maturation in the 1960s. He could and did play rings around most everyone else. Beck was unafraid to follow his muse and do everything his way with no regard for commercial considerations. If he had hits, fine; if not, that was perfectly acceptable. Jeff Beck was a legend who earned the title.


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