Updated: Jan 15
Jeff and Sandra Beck at the Grammys
I haven't been moved to write an epitaph since pianist/composer Chick Corea departed, but this week I was deeply saddened to hear that my number one electric guitar hero Jeff Beck died of bacterial meningitis. I've been a loyal fan of his since high school because no one, (and I mean no one) had the depth and range of expression he did. No one else even came close to making an electric guitar sing, speak or cry like Jeff did.
Jeff's playing was powerful, emotional, beautiful and inspiring. There are other electric guitar virtuosos out there, but no one could play each note from the heart the way Jeff did. The story goes that in his youth, he (like Eddie Van Halen) spent hours and days in his room practicing while his friends were out pursuing a social life.
From his early days in the Yardbirds through the many versions of the Jeff Beck Group he pursued a vision which ranged through the entire spectrum of music expression from soaring and visceral instrumental flights to tender and poignant moments. Contrast Hammerhead, and Nessun Dorma from his 2010 album Emotion and Commotion. And it took grit and imagination for one of rock guitar's bad boys to cover Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which he accomplished with feeling, grace and sensitivity.
Jeff wasn't perfect. His 2016 album Loud Hailer was not even close to his usual standards. And his recent collaboration with Johnny Depp really left me scratching my head. But when he was on, he was the best and made the others pale in comparison. He demonstrated how music has a life of its own and made me wish I could play the guitar.
So long live the music of Jeff Beck!
May it continue to move us and take us into the depths of the human heart in music and lift us to the heights where rock in the right hands can truly be transcendent.