Rock guitar hero Jeff Beck has passed away yesterday. The driving force behind The Yardbirds will forever be known as one of rock and roll’s greatest innovators. NPR’s Andrew Limbong writes of Beck’s life:
Call him a “guitar god” or a “guitarist’s guitarist,” but Jeff Beck was in a class by himself. Beck, one the most acclaimed guitarists in rock and roll history, died Tuesday after contracting bacterial meningitis, according to a statement released by a publicist on behalf of his family. He was 78 years old.
Beck was born in Wallington, England in 1944. He became enamored with the guitar as a child and first came to prominence playing in The Yardbirds – where he replaced Eric Clapton and joined Jimmy Page. Beck left the band shortly after, and formed The Jeff Beck Group (along with a then little-known singer named Rod Stewart).
In debates over guitar-virtuosity, Beck is often listed in the same breath as players like Clapton, Page and Keith Richards. But Beck was always a bit of a recluse — wary of the attention that came with being a famous musician. He explained to The New York Times in 2010 how he felt about the music industry as a whole:
“It’s a diabolical business,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hellish it must be to be hounded like Amy Winehouse and people like that. I have a little peripheral place on the outskirts of celebrity, when I go to premieres and that sort of stuff, which is as close as I want to get. I cherish my privacy, and woe betide anyone who tries to interfere with that.”
Despite his best efforts to stay out of the spotlight, Beck was still recognized and acclaimed. He accumulated 17 Grammy nominations, including one for Best Rock Performance in this year’s ceremony, and has won eight. He has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice — once with The Yardbirds and once on his own.
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