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Jeff Beck Profile


Guitarist Jeff Beck

Guitarist Jeff Beck

Photo by Kevin Winter, courtesy Getty Images

Born: June 24, 1944 in Wellington, Surrey England

Jeff Beck is both one of the most talented, and most maddening guitarists in the worlds of rock and blues-rock music. An adventuresome artist, he has never chosen a single style or musical genre and stuck with it, preferring to experiment in pop, rock, blues, and jazz formats depending on his whim at the time.

A notorious perfectionist with a well-documented temper, Beck has retired from music and reappeared with reckless disregard for the commercial considerations of the music industry. Regardless, through the years Beck has created a considerable catalog of music that has proven to be influential and groundbreaking beyond the sales of any individual album.

Shapes Of Things

Influenced by guitarists like Les Paul, Chuck Berry, and Steve Cropper, Jeff Beck first picked up the instrument while in his teens. His efforts at building his own guitar were less than successful, so he learned to play on a borrowed guitar. After school, he attended Wimbledon Art College, later working as a painter, decorator, and other odd jobs as he focused on developing his musical skills.

Beck became an in-demand session guitarist, and played behind London cult figure "Screaming" Lord Sutch. His sister introduced him to fellow studio musician Jimmy Page, who recommended him to the Yardbirds when Eric Clapton departed that group to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

Beck joined the Yardbirds in 1965, leaving the band a little over a year-and-a-half later. Beck recorded a single album during his tenure with the legendary blues-rock band, 1966's Roger the Engineer, and appeared with the band in the movie Blow Up. During his last few months with the Yardbirds, Beck shared the lead guitar spotlight with Page, who had originally joined the band as a bass player. Beck left in late-1966, citing health issues as the reason.

The Jeff Beck Group

After releasing a handful of singles, including the enduring "Beck's Bolero" and the UK hit "Hi Ho Silver Lining," Beck formed the Jeff Beck Group with vocalist Rod Stewart and bassist Ron Wood. This band recorded two well-received albums - Truth in 1967, and Beck-Ola in 1969. Both albums are considered to be pioneering works in hard rock, mixing guitar pyrotechnics with soulful vocals and blues roots. The group broke-up due to various personality issues in 1970.

After the break-up of the Jeff Beck Group, Beck's original intention was to form a band with the Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. When injuries from an auto accident sidelined the guitarist for a year, Bogert and Appice went on to form Cactus. When Beck returned to music, he reformed the Jeff Beck Group with entirely different musicians, releasing two albums that combined elements of soul, blues, jazz, and rock music. The band's self-titled 1972 album was recorded in Memphis with producer Steve Cropper.

Beck's Blow By Blow

Once again breaking up the Jeff Beck Group, Beck followed up on his previous plans and formed Beck, Bogert and Appice. The blues-based power trio released a single album in 1973 that resulted in a rock hit with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." A live album culled from a 1974 show was later released. The band lasted all of two years before Beck sojourned out on his own once again.

Beck resurfaced in 1975 with the groundbreaking instrumental Blow By Blow album, mixing more jazz sounds into his heady blues-rock brew, following it up a year later with the jazz-fusion oriented Wired, recorded with drummer Narada Michael Walden and keyboardist Jan Hammer.

Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop

During the 1980s and '90s Beck recorded and toured sporadically, the guitarist suffering from noise-induced tinnitus. Nevertheless, his 1985 album Flash yielded a hit with its cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," sung by Rod Stewart, and earned Beck his first Grammy™ Award. Subsequent albums like Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop (1989), You Had It Coming (2001), and Jeff (2003) have earned Beck three more Grammys for his phenomenal fretwork.

Beck has managed to forge a lengthy and acclaimed career on his own terms, and works on whatever projects he wants. During the 1990s and '00s, Beck has lent his skills to recordings by Roger Waters, Cyndi Lauper, and Brian May of Queen, among others. He has toured with B.B. King and appeared at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2004 and 2007.

Recommended Albums: Beck's Truth, with Rod Stewart on vocals, features a daring set of hard blues-rock, including a version of the Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things" and a pair of imaginative Willie Dixon covers. The instrumental Blow By Blow displays Beck's versatile chops with its blend of blues signatures and jazz-rock fusion, while 1985's Flash shows the guitarist's deft hand at spinning pop-rock tunes.

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