The guitar world is reeling.
Jeff Beck was an early pioneer of the electric guitar, along with Hendrix, Clapton, Harrison and Page. But he was always a bit of an outlier in some regard.
He enjoyed the success of the Yardbirds but then veered into his own path and in doing so, created a individual voice on the guitar that is incomparable to anyone else.
I’ve studied Jeff Beck’s music and it feels like trying to play another instrument sometimes! First and foremost, he plays with his fingers, no pick! But it allows you to play the guitar with such a different feel! Then there’s the way he used his right hand to utilise the musical qualities of the volume pot and then the whammy bar on his strat, and the results are extraordinary!
The result is tracks like ‘Where were you?’ and ‘Cause we’ve ended as lovers’.
Jeff Beck could play fast but he knew when to play slow and let the notes soar and boy could he make them soar!
My guitar tutor Michael Caswell at ACM, an extraordinary guitar himself when he was alive, cited Jeff Beck as one of his favourites, and I remember the conversations we had about him and the two points Mike made about him were that Jeff was the only guitarist from the 60s who kept on getting better (I whole heartedly agree!) and that the thing that made him truly special was his ability to pick the right small selection of notes that made you go ‘What was that!?’ and make the hair stand on the back of your neck.
Jeff Beck kept evolving. He’s left us a wonderful catalogue of enriching, interesting and incredible music and amongst that catalogue his playing shines through whilst also including a multitude of high profile collaborations whilst also giving lesser known and younger people a platform. Not least the phenomenal Tal Wilkenfield.
Jeff Beck always appeared humble. It was never about him, unlike today’s toxic social media world which spends far too much time pedalling self image and fitting in. It was about making something truly unique and letting the magic of the electric guitar soar. That’s what I aspire to do and Jeff Beck’s influence is certainly embedded in me as it is for many others.
It’s sad he had to leave us so suddenly, and it’s sad that this generation of loved musicians are departing. In all honesty I think this will be a decade of mourning. In honour of such musicians and their legacy, I for one look forward to continue enjoying the music they leave behind and admire the dedication they committed to their work during their lifetime, and try and be as dedicated myself.
Thank you Jeff.