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Legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck dies aged 78

Legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck dies aged 78

Legendary British guitarist Jeff Beck has died aged 78 after contracting bacterial meningitis. The rock star, who just weeks ago finished touring with Johnny Depp, passed away 'peacefully' on Tuesday, his agent revealed on Wednesday (Jan 11) night. His family shared the heartbreaking news on his Twitter page along with a picture of the star on stage with his trademark shades and guitar.

It comes just weeks after the former Yardbirds star finished a transatlantic tour with Depp as they promoted their debut album '18'. The album is nominated for three Brit Awards in the U.K.

The pair became close friends in recent years and were seen out drinking in Britain together late last year.

A statement from Beck's agent read: '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. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.'

A representative for the man regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, said that Beck had been ill over the holiday period and passed away at a hospital close to his home in Surrey.

Beck is survived by his wife, Sandra.

The pair married in 2005 when he was 61 and Sandra was 41 in Tunbridge Wells with Sir Paul McCartney among the guests.

Sandra designed the album cover artwork for Beck's collaboration with Depp, 18, which features the pair as teenagers on the cover.

Beck said of the sleeve: 'When Johnny and I started playing together, it really ignited our youthful spirit and creativity. We would joke about how we felt 18 again, so that just became the album title too.'

Beck and Depp first met in 2016 and bonded over their love of guitars. They finally agreed to work on an album together in 2019.

In June 2014, Beck was forced to cancel a European tour after being rushed to a hospital for an undisclosed medical procedure. Despite this, he only took a break for six weeks and returned to touring that August.

Beck was asked about his health in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone. He said: 'I’m fit as a fiddle. Eric [Clapton's] got a nerve complaint. It sounds horrible. It would be so sad if it impairs his playing. I did sprain my wrist, carrying something heavy. And I have a bad back. They had to operate in the lower back. As long as I rest every so often – lie flat – I’m fine. But I keep lifting stuff.'

Among those paying tribute to Beck was Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi who tweeted: 'Jeff was such a nice person and an outstanding iconic, genius guitar player – there will never be another Jeff Beck.'

While Black Sabbath front man Ozzy Osbourne tweeted: 'I can’t express how saddened I am to hear of Jeff Beck’s passing. What a terrible loss for his family, friends & his many fans. It was such an honour to have known Jeff and an incredible honor to have had him play on my most recent album.'

Beck was nominated for a 2023 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for his work on Ozzy Osbourne's Patient Number 9.

Kiss singer Gene Simmons described Beck's passing as 'heartbreaking news... nobody played guitar like Jeff. Please get ahold of the first two Jeff Beck Group albums and behold greatness. RIP.'

Beck first came to prominence as a member of the Yardbirds and then went out on his own in a solo career that incorporated hard rock, jazz, funky blues and even opera.

He was known for his improvising, love of harmonics and the whammy bar on his preferred guitar, the Fender Stratocaster.

'Jeff Beck is the best guitar player on the planet,' Joe Perry, the lead guitarist of Aerosmith, told The New York Times in 2010. 'He is head, hands and feet above all the rest of us, with the kind of talent that appears only once every generation or two.'

Beck was among the rock-guitarist pantheon from the late '60s that included Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix.

Beck won eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once with the Yardbirds in 1992 and again as a solo artist in 2009.

He was ranked fifth in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the '100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.'

Beck played guitar with vocalists as varied as Luciano Pavarotti, Macy Gray, Chrissie Hynde, Joss Stone, Imelda May, Cyndi Lauper, Wynonna Judd and Buddy Guy.

He made two records with Rod Stewart – 1968's 'Truth' and 1969's 'Beck-Ola' – and one with a 64-piece orchestra, 'Emotion & Commotion.'

'I like an element of chaos in music. That feeling is the best thing ever, as long as you don't have too much of it. It's got to be in balance.

'I just saw Cirque du Soleil, and it struck me as complete organized chaos,' he told Guitar World in 2014. 'If I could turn that into music, it´s not far away from what my ultimate goal would be, which is to delight people with chaos and beauty at the same time.'

Beck career highlights include joining with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice to create the power trio that released 'Beck, Bogert and Appice' in 1973, tours with Brian Wilson and Buddy Guy and a tribute album to the late guitarist Les Paul, 'Rock 'n' Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul).'

Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born in Surrey, England, and attended Wimbledon Art College.

His father was an accountant, and his mother worked in a chocolate factory. As a boy, he built his first instrument, using a cigar box, a picture frame for the neck and string from a radio-controlled toy airplane.

He was in a few bands – including Nightshift and The Tridents – before joining the Yardbirds in 1965, replacing Clapton but only a year later giving way to Page.

During his tenure, the band created the memorable singles 'Heart Full of Soul,' 'I'm a Man' and 'Shapes of Things.'

Beck's first hit single was 1967's instrumental 'Beck's Bolero,' which featured future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, and future Who drummer Keith Moon. The Jeff Beck Group - with Stewart singing - was later booked to play the 1969 Woodstock music festival but their appearance was canceled. Beck later said there was unrest in the band.

'I could see the end of the tunnel,' he told Rolling Stone in 2010.

Beck was friends with Hendrix and they performed together. Before Hendrix, most rock guitar players concentrated on a similar style and technical vocabulary. Hendrix blew that apart.

'He came along and reset all of the rules in one evening,' Beck told Guitar World.

Beck teamed up with legendary producer George Martin – a.k.a. 'the fifth Beatle' – to help him fashion the genre-melding, jazz-fusion classic 'Blow by Blow' (1975) and 'Wired' (1976).

He teamed up with Seal on the Hendrix tribute 'Stone Free,' created a jazz-fusion group led by synthesizer player Jan Hammer and honored rockabilly guitarist Cliff Gallup with the album 'Crazy Legs.' He put out 'Loud Hailer' in 2016.

Beck's guitar work can be heard on the soundtracks of such films as 'Stomp the Yard,' 'Shallow Hal,' 'Casino,' 'Honeymoon in Vegas,' 'Twins,' 'Observe and Report' and 'Little Big League.'

Beck's career never hit the commercial highs of Clapton. A perfectionist, he preferred to make critically well-received instrumental records and left the limelight for long stretches, enjoying his time restoring vintage automobiles.

He and Clapton had a tense relationship early on but became friends in later life and toured together.

'Because we were all trying to be big bananas,' Beck told Rolling Stone in 2010. 'Except I didn't have the luxury of the hit songs Eric's got.'