Jeff Beck, Rock Hero to the Guitar Gods, Dies at 78

Beck had been recently touring with Johnny Depp

Guitarist Jeff Beck greets fans in celebration of new book "BECK01" at Mel's Dinner
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jeff Beck, the British guitarist whose wholly unique and inventive soloing methods would shape the playing of all the rock guitar greats who came after him, has died, according to a Wednesday statement from his representatives. He was 78.

Beck died after recently contracting bacterial meningitis, his family said by way of his official Twitter account.

“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,” the statement read. “His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”

The eight-time Grammy winner had recently completed a tour with Johnny Depp in support of their album collaboration “18.” But since the early dawn of the modern “guitar god,” virtually every virtuosic player who has come along was touched by Beck’s influence.

When Beck stepped into the Yardbirds to replace Eric Clapton in 1965, his flowing lines and distorted effects launched the blues-based band into the sonic stratosphere with fuzz pedals, echo units and compressed distortion. Hits like “Shapes of Things,” “I’m a Man” and “Heart Full of Soul” all featured Beck’s cosmic, contained-chaos solos.

His playing naturally progressed into jazz fusion and bluesy hard rock – the closest thing to a definition one comes when describing the bulk of his next long-term project, the Jeff Beck Group, a relatively short-lived but critically acclaimed group that included a whirlwind of members including Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood and a young, up-and-coming singer named Rod Stewart.

Beck was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of The Yardbirds and again as a solo artist. He is survived by his wife, Sandra Beck.