Our Chief Executive Officer Andy Grays pays tribute to the legendary guitarist, who has died at 78. Image: Pitchfork.
There is always a great sense of loss when a great artist passes on, non more so than when they are still highly active, as was the case with Jeff Beck.
There are many great tributes from his contemporaries such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and those that have followed such as Joe Bonamassa and Joanne Shaw Taylor, the latter who only recently played the Guildhall toured with him. Perhaps to give his achievements some context I recall a radio programme from the early 1980’s hosted by the wonderful Alexis Korner, a great blues musician himself, the programme featured each week a great guitarist, Alexis’s top 10. I recall listening avidly to the programme on a Sunday night to here Alexis talk about Jimi Hendrix one week and then Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Ritchie Blackmore, to name but a few on other weeks. Of course one of his programmes was dedicated to Jeff Beck, perhaps the most unique guitarist of them all, someone whose style and artistry Alexis truly cherished.
In 1960’s Britain it was the golden age of the British guitarist, whatever happened after this is owed to a collective of musicians who came through a few groups, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and the Yardbirds. Alongside John Mayall, the emergence of these guitar greats flowed, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Peter Green and of course Jeff Beck. Each one would go onto forming their own bands and developing their own style. It is no coincidence that Jimi Hendrix found his success coming across to the Britain in 1966 and being embraced by these artists, it was here that he was at home, able to make his mark.
Jeff’s style was unique, many guitarists can copy 70% of a guitarists playing regards to solo’s however such was the jazz fusion style of his playing, that nobody copied Jeff. Bent over his Fender Strat, often discarding the pick, using his strumming hand to pick out the notes whilst often utilising the tremolo arm, he produced an array of sounds that showcased the breadth of the electric guitar. To get a sense of his work it’s worth listening to the recently released BBC Live sessions from the early 1970’s. He worked with many great artists, including Rod Stewart at the start of his career, Cozy Powell, and most recently produced an album featuring Johnny Depp. He will be missed.
– Andy Grays