Jeff Beck passed away from viral meningitis yesterday, at the age of 78. No matter what his Rolling Stone assignation as the 5th best guitarist of all time, or his two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame accolades (once for the Yardbirds, once as a solo artist), nor the company he keeps as one of the rock and roll golden age greats, alongside Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Jimi Page, Dave Gilmour and Peter Green, Jeff was very much his own man. I never have heard a bad word about this man who saved all of his noise, drama and music for his iconic Fender Strat and the stages upon which he played so beautifully and powerfully.
Jeff Beck explored the boundaries of what a guitar was capable of, incorporating jazz improvisation, rock, blues, heavy metal and good old fashioned rock and roll into his powerful mixture. Jeff’s guitar was always big medicine, whether good or bad, calming or invigorating.
I personally love the Beck/Page Yardbirds lineup, and its dangerous engine of rebellion. That band was not just great, it was tight – the biggest accolade I can think to ever bestow on a group. Their music launched the careers of Clapton, Page and Jeff Beck, and though sounds very much of its time, the early 1960s, has matured into early mod white-boy blues gold.
Rest in power, Beck. Turn that amp up to the max, go find Jimi and the other boys already there waiting for you, and let that celestial strat rip. Beck: the only guitarist that Page ever looked happy to play rhythm guitar for. Beck the man with the tasty riffs and all the edge you could wish for. Beck, solid, yet soaring, flying over that fretboard as if his fingers were made to do that, and that only.
It is the end of an era. Rock and roll is losing sand through the hourglass by the moment, and Beck passing into the annals of history, victorious and legendary is one more nail in the coffin of a movement that once felt as if it could change the world and make it a better place. Beck did make the world a better place with his music for the time he was here to grace us with it, and he deserves all the tributes and accolades that are deservedly being sent up to him like prayers, from those that look up to him and revere him.
Jeff Beck: one of the originals. Fly high, Jeff. We were lucky to have you, and already miss you.