BRIAN MAY Shares Five-Minute Video Tribute To JEFF BECK: 'The Loss Is Incalculable'
January 12, 2023
QUEEN's Brian May was among the musicians who paid tribute to British guitar legend Jeff Beck following his death on Tuesday (January 10).
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer, who rose to prominence with THE YARDBIRDS, died "suddenly" after contracting bacterial meningitis, his representative said.
May took to his social media on Thursday to share a five-minute video in which he offered what he said were his "thoughts on the sad loss of a guitar genius and friend."
May said: "I guess I'm struggling today, as everyone wants to talk about Jeff, of course, and they wanna talk to me, but I don't really feel up to talking to the press and media about it. I guess I don't feel ready. This is such an extraordinary loss and he was such an extraordinary person, it's hard to process the fact that he's not here, apart from process what I would like to say.
"Jeff was completely and utterly unique," May continued, "and the kind of musician who's impossible to define. And I was absolutely in awe of him. He was only a couple of years older than me, and came from the same area where I came from, but he was a hero to me all along, doing things which I kind of dreamed of doing. When I was at school, even, he was already up there, in THE TRIDENTS and then in THE YARDBIRDS, doing extraordinary things, and a major, major inspiration for me to try and do the same... not the same, but to give myself a voice the way he had.
"If you wanna hear his depth of emotion and sound and phrasing and the way he could touch your soul, listen to 'Where Were You' off the 'Guitar Shop' album. Just Google 'Where Were You Jeff Beck' and sit down and listen to it for four minutes. It's unbelievable. It's possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded, probably alongside Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing'. So sensitive, so beautiful, so incredibly creative and unlike anything you've ever heard anywhere else. Yes, of course he had his influences too, but he brought an amazing voice to rock music which will never, ever be emulated, or equaled.
"Yeah, he came from my area, so he was like a local boy. And I saw him play so many times, always with my jaw on the ground, thinking, 'How does he do that?' I often think it must have been like being around Mozart and seeing that incredible genius at work and wondering where it could possibly come from; how could he be that great? If you were with Jeff, if you were around his house, he'd come out from the garage, having been under one of his cars for the last few hours, his fingers all covered in grease and muck and looking like he'd just kind of crawled out from a ditch somewhere, and he'd pick up a guitar and this beautiful, beautiful, sensitive music would come out.
"I think I was very shy; I didn't really know how to talk to him. I couldn't quite follow him. He wasn't an easy person for me — maybe because I was in so much awe of him. But I was never at ease. And I wrote him a song — well, I wrote a song about him, called 'The Guv'nor', for one of my solo albums, [1998's 'Another World'], and he came over to my place here in the studio, played it with me, and we had a laugh. And he played some incredible stuff. Again, my jaw dropped. I couldn't really pick up a guitar when he was in the room, because he was so incredible, I just wanted to watch and listen. So he played on the track, and he was, like, 'Oh, yeah, whatever.'
"I don't think I could ever put into words exactly how much I did revere him, I hope I gave him the picture. [Laughs] I don't know if he knew. But I feel like I wasn't a good enough friend to him. And that's one of the things that happens, I suppose, but particularly in this case I feel like there were so many times I could have rung him up, and I wish I had, to be a proper friend.
"But Jeff Beck is so unique, so influential on every guitarist I've ever met in my life. The loss is incalculable. It's so sad not having him in the world anymore. I still can't quite compute it in my head. So this is as far as I can get at the moment, I'm afraid.
"I was listening last night to my old THE YARDBIRDS albums, which is the first time when he kind of started to put out there what he could do — 'Over Under Sideways Down', have a listen to that. And 'Shapes Of Things' — oh my God! When you get to the solo in the original YARDBIRDS version of 'Shapes Of Things', it's like something takes off like a space rocket. No one had ever heard something like that before. Instead of the guitar sounding like a guitar, it sounded like something between a sitar and some strange wind instrument. Just listen to it. It blew my mind at the time. It was one of the major things which made me wanna play guitar as I do, and take it up as a career, if you like. But that will always, always stick in my mind... 'Shapes Of Things', 'Where Were You' from the 'Guitar Shop' album. But so many incredible things he did.
"He was wild, he was unquantifiable and extraordinarily difficult to understand, but one of the greatest guitar geniuses the world has ever seen and will ever see.
"God bless you, Jeff. Miss you."
Having cultivated one of the most influential careers in rock history, Beck was universally acknowledged as one of the most talented and significant guitarists in the world, and has played alongside some of the greatest artists of rock, blues and jazz.
Over the course of his distinguished 50-plus-year music career, he had earned an incredible eight Grammy Awards, been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time," and been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice — once as a member of THE YARDBIRDS and again as a solo artist. In the summer of 2016, the guitar virtuoso celebrated his five decades of music with an extraordinary concert at the famous Hollywood Bowl.
Speaking when he was inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for the second time in 2009, Beck said: "I play the way I do because it allows me to come up with the sickest sounds possible. That's the point now, isn't it? I don't care about the rules. In fact, if I don't break the rules at least 10 times in every song, then I'm not doing my job properly."
Beck famously replaced Eric Clapton as THE YARDBIRDS' lead guitarist in 1965 and later went on to form THE JEFF BECK GROUP, which featured Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on bass. Their two albums — "Truth" (1968) and "Beck-Ola" (1969) — would become musical touchstones for hard rockers in the years to come.
The constantly evolving Beck's next move — a power trio with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, which released "Beck, Bogert And Appice" (1973),once again shattered people's preconceptions of what a rock guitarist was supposed to sound like.
1985's "Flash" kept Beck in the spotlight as he earned the "Best Rock Instrumental" Grammy for the song "Escape". A second Grammy came with Jeff Beck's "Guitar Shop" with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas, and a third for "Dirty Mind" from the "You Had It Coming" album in 2001. 2009 saw the release of the platinum-selling "Performing This Week… Live at Ronnie Scott's", which earned a Grammy for "A Day In The Life".
Beck's astonishing 2010 solo album, "Emotion & Commotion", brought about two additional Grammy Awards; Beck was nominated in five categories before bringing home three: "Best Rock Instrumental Performance" for "Hammerhead" and "Best Pop Instrumental Performance" for "Nessun Dorma", both from "Emotion & Commotion", and "Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals" for "Imagine", his collaboration with Herbie Hancock.
His "Rock 'N' Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul)" album was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for "Best Rock Album". In 2016 he released "Loud Hailer" and in 2017 "Jeff Beck: Live At The Hollywood Bowl" was released, both to widespread critical acclaim.
The eight-time Grammy winner is survived by his wife Sandra.
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