Artists Who Changed Music: Jeff Beck | Produce Like A Pro | Jul 21, 2021 (Video)

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54 min
Jeff Beck has been called “the greatest living rock guitarist.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, in 1992 as part of The Yardbirds, and in 2009 as a solo artist. Jeff Beck has won eight Grammy Awards in his career, three of them in 2010. He has released fifteen albums as a solo artist, and has performed with many of the world’s top artists. Both Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones at one point wanted him as a band member.

Rolling Stone magazine called Beck “one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock,” who has “helped shape blues, rock, psychedelia and heavy metal.” Hundreds of great players have name-checked Beck as major influence. In fact, it’s hard to find a top guitar player who is not influenced by Beck. His looks are even said to have been the blueprint for the Nigel Tufnell character in This Is Spinal Tap.   

Given all the above, one would expect Jeff Beck to be a household name, on par with other guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and his erstwhile Yardbird colleagues Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. In fact, Clapton, Page and Beck are regarded as the big three legends of British rock guitar, sometimes called “the holy triumvirate.” But despite this, Beck has always been less in the public eye than his esteemed colleagues.

The reasons for this are many. Jeff Beck is not a prolific song writer or singer, and other than The Yardbirds has never been a member of a house-hold-name band. He also has shifted genres several times during a career that sometimes followed a bewildering zig-zag course. On top, several health issues, as well as his love of Hot Rods, with him doing the car mechanic work himself, led to him repeatedly taking time out from music. This has made his career not only zig-zag but also stop-start.

But perhaps the overriding reason why Beck is the lesser known of the super-guitarists is that his playing often is more abstract, harder to grasp, and defying expectations. Though he possesses sumptuous technique, he never uses flash guitar wizardry to impresses. Instead every note he plays matters, and his playing is about feel and expression, about playing the right notes in the right way at the right moment with the right sound.

Often Beck’s playing barely sounds like a guitar, and perhaps because he rarely sings, he uses the guitar as a substitute, making it sound like a voice. It is the spirit, the feel, the spontaneity, the creativity of his playing, the capacity to go beyond what’s considered possible on the guitar, that’s the biggest influence on other players, and why he is often called “the guitarist’s guitarist.

Until covid came along, Beck’s live performances were jaw-dropping excursions into the outer limits of guitar playing. Today, coming up for his 77th birthday, Jeff Beck is working with Johnny Depp on a recording project, and continues to be one of the most innovative and instantly recognizable guitarists alive. New releases and his return to the live stage are eagerly awaited.

Paul Tingen



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