EAST SUSSEX—Jeff Beck, member of the 1960s British rock band, The Yardbirds, and considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, died from bacterial meningitis in a hospital near his home in Riverhall Hill, England on January 13. He was 78 years old.

Beck, born Geoffrey Arnold Beck on June 24, 1944 in Surrey, England, rose to prominence after replacing Eric Clapton as the guitarist for the Yardbirds, an already established rock band first formed in London in 1963. By 1967, he was fired from Yardbirds during a U.S. tour – due to his perfectionism, ill-temper and him being a consistent no-show – and formed the Jeff Beck Group, which included Rod Stewart as the vocalist and Ronnie Wood on bass. By 1975, he became mostly an instrumentalist, focusing on innovative sound, and went on to find success as a solo-act after recording two hit albums, 1975’s “Blow By Blow” and 1976’s “Wired.”

The Yardbirds (Jeff Beck second from left).

Throughout this career, his works delved into genres ranging from blues rock, hard rock, jazz fusion, electronica and even opera. He was the cause of a wave of inspiration among guitarists that followed and was referred to as “a guitarist’s guitarist.” Magazines such as Rolling Stone ranked him as one the top five greatest guitarists in history. Beck won six Grammys for Best Rock Instrumental Performance throughout his career and one Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. In 2014, he received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: in 1992 for Yardbirds and 2009 as a solo artist. 

Actor and longtime friend to Beck, Johnny Depp, was reportedly by his bedside when he died. Beck and Depp performed together, collaborated and released the album,
“18 on July 15, 2022, as well as an official music video for the album’s first single, “This Is a Song for Miss Heady.”

Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck when they performed at the Apollo in Manchester.

Fellow musicians reacted to the news of Beck’s sudden death like Jimmy Page who tweeted:

“The six stringed Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions. Jeff could channel music from the ethereal. His technique unique. His imaginations apparently limitless. Jeff I will miss you along with your millions of fans. Jeff Beck Rest in Peace.”

Beck is survived by his wife Sandra Beck.