Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck died on January 10 aged 78 after contracting bacterial meningitis, his representatives announced.
“On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday. His family asks for privacy while they process this tremendous loss,” read the statement posted on Beck’s official website.
Jimmy Page paid tribute to Beck shortly after the announcement of his death, followed by another tribute posted by Robert Plant the following day. Page and Beck first met in their youth and it was Page’s recommendation in March 1965 that The Yardbirds hire Beck as their new guitarist instead of Page, who they initially attempted to recruit.
Page recalled his first meeting with Beck in an interview recorded for “Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story”, a 2018 documentary film about Beck’s life.
“Well, he came round to my house,” Page said in the film. “I was living at home, of course, with my parents. And Jeff came in and he had a homemade guitar. I also had a homemade guitar there as well and we just sort of clicked immediately.”
In May 1966, Page and Beck recorded “Beck’s Bolero” together in a recording session that also featured John Paul Jones.
Page and Beck performed together while they were both members of The Yardbirds, including in a performance featured in the film “Blow-Up”, before Beck’s departure from the group in 1966. They would subsequently appear together on stage many more times, notably at the ARMS Charity Concerts held in 1983.
“The six stringed Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions,” Page wrote on his official Facebook page on January 11, shortly after Beck’s death was announced. “Jeff could channel music from the ethereal. His technique unique. His imaginations apparently limitless. Jeff I will miss you along with your millions of fans. Jeff Beck Rest in Peace.”
Beck featured on the Honeydrippers project along with Page and Robert Plant for the 1984 album “The Honeydrippers: Volume One”, a record that Plant recently announced he plans to re-release in an expanded version.
“This is tragic news. Hard to take in,” Plant wrote on his official Instagram page on January 12. “Jeff always appeared timeless, ever evolving. He embraced project after project with limitless energy and enthusiasm. He surfaced in an extraordinary time, he took his place side by side with the virtuosos of the period, his mates.”
“The scene was on fire, he introduced a cool template moving from Yardbird to Bolero to Truth, Beck Ola with Rod the perfect foil, the singer and guitarist syndrome, plenty of sparks, great results. He cooked up magic through all the passing eras, always up for the next, unknown, unlikely collision, back in time to homage Cliff Gallup, forward to Johnny Depp. His gift was enormous. He was funny, challenging and eager. My feelings are with Sandra today.”
Page and Beck last performed on stage together on April 4, 2009 when Page inducted Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. They performed “Beck’s Bolero,” “Immigrant Song” and then “Train Kept A-Rollin'” along with Ronnie Wood, Joe Perry, Flea and members of Metallica.
“I thought yeah ok, I’ll bring over the original guitar that I played on [Beck’s Bolero],” Page said of that 2009 performance in an interview in “Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story”. “I took it over there, we had a rehearsal. And I got a phone call just before we were due to go. And he said ‘I’ve been having a chat with the band and they thought it might be a good idea if we, instead of just doing ‘Bolero,’ if we did ‘Immigrant Song’ and I said ‘Oh yeah? Well this is really going to be interesting’ because we hadn’t had a rehearsal.”
“I mean, he was just soloing over it and he’d throw the vocal lead in just to show, you know, just to show everybody how on top of it he was. The band are having great fun doing this riff and then we segue through into doing ‘Bolero’ and it’s absolutely amazing.”
The pair were most recently photographed together on June 15, 2018 in London by photographer Ross Halfin when Page was seen watching Beck play from the side of the stage that day.
“Everybody respects Jeff,” Page said in the 2018 documentary film. “He’s an extraordinary musician and he’s developed a technique which is so complex, it’s just a beauty to behold and hear and to feel his playing. He’s having a conversation with you when he’s playing. It’s just he’s not singing.”