Jeff Beck, virtuoso rock guitarist, dies at 78


Jeff Beck, the British guitar virtuoso who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the Yardbirds and later embarked on an acclaimed and prolific solo career, died Jan. 10. He was 78.

A statement on his website said that Mr. Beck died “after suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis.” Additional details were not immediately available.

Mr. Beck was widely considered one of the greatest guitarists in history, and leaped between genres while recording albums that encompassed hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion, the blues and electronic music. Playing a Fender Stratocaster with the amps turned way up, he unleashed new sonic possibilities in rock music, along with guitarist contemporaries including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix.

“I don’t care about the rules,” he once said. “In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I’m not doing my job properly.”

Mr. Beck received eight Grammy Awards and was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, first as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and then as a solo artist in 2009.

His first solo recording, “Beck’s Bolero,” was an epic instrumental track recorded in 1966 with future Led Zeppelin musicians John Paul Jones and Page, as well as pianist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Keith Moon of the Who. Two years later it was featured included on his debut solo album, “Truth,” which introduced listeners to his backing band the Jeff Beck Group, a rotating cast of musicians that initially included singer Rod Stewart as well as bassist-guitarist Ronnie Wood.

The album peaked at No. 15 in the United States, and Mr. Beck went on to collaborate with singers as varied as Wynonna Judd, Cyndi Lauper and Luciano Pavarotti.

Emily Langer contributed to this report. A complete obituary will be published soon.

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