Tal Wilkenfeld on Jeff Beck: “We’ve lost our favorite guitarist, and one of the most intelligent, intuitive people I’ve ever met”

Guitarist Jeff Beck (L) and bassist Tal Wilkenfeld perform at the Grammy Foundation's "Starry Night" Gala honoring Sir George Martin on July 12, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
(Image credit: Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

In the wake of Jeff Beck’s tragic passing, countless names from the bass world have paid tribute to one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock. Bootsy Collins, Billy Sheehan, Duff McKagan, Suzi Quatro, Stanley Clarke, Will Lee, and many more have offered heartfelt tributes. “Jeff Beck has left the building and it is a lonelier place without him,” Paul McCartney posted on social media. “God bless Jeff and his family.”

Gene Simmons called it “heartbreaking news … no one played guitar like Jeff. Please get ahold of the first two Jeff Beck Group albums and behold greatness.”

Beck, who rose to fame with the Yardbirds before fronting the Jeff Beck Group, worked with a series of phenomenal bass players during his career. One of those privileged few was Tal Wilkenfeld. “Playing in Jeff’s band was so fun,” said Tal. “It was never about playing for the sake of playing. Everyone had something to say, and something to learn from the conversation. We’ve lost our favorite guitarist, and one of the most intelligent, intuitive and hilarious people I’ve ever met.”

Doug Wimbish, who was hired to play on Beck’s 1985 album, Flash, wrote, “I will never forget Jeff and how kind he was to me. A great person, a great spirit and a total legend to the core.”

“He taught a lot while never claiming to be a teacher,” said Bootsy Collins, who recorded with Jeff for Malcolm McLaren’s House of The Blue Danube, at Pearl Sound studios in Detroit. “Thxs for the gifts u left us with.”

“Nobody had a sound or a soul to match what he had,” said Will Lee. “There’s never going to be another voice like his on any instrument. He was truly amazing.”

More tributes can be found below.

Paul Samwell-Smith      

“What a genius. We wrote Shapes of Things together and Jeff had a blank sixteen bars for a solo in the middle of the song. He not only played an extraordinary solo, but he changed the nature of guitar playing ever after. Jeff was a lot of fun, and very naughty, both in life and in music. What a great life he enjoyed."

Flea

In 2009 Flea joined Jeff Beck, Metallica and a few other very special guests for a rowdy performance of Train Kept A-Rollin at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. “What an absolutely brilliant musician who carved out a world all his own. A huge influence on a zillion guitarists and a deep part of who I am as a bassist. We will listen to you always, Jeff. Thank you for your gifts. What a rocker. This is the end of an era.” 

Rhonda Smith

“I first met Jeff in 2009 in Montreux, Switzerland. I was there with Prince and I had just had my hair done. I was on my way back to my hotel room when I entered the elevator and there was Jeff Beck all by himself. I knew who he was, but I said nothing… I was in awe.  Who knew that we would spend the next 13 years together? Thank you Jeff for all the special moments and the invaluable things that I learned from you.”  

Will Lee

“Nobody had a sound or a soul to match what Jeff had. When I asked him to play a solo for my album cut of Driftin by Jimi Hendrix, I was blown away that he said yes. And once I heard the solo, I was literally on my knees crying. I replayed it over and over again in disbelief. His solo is the musical equivalent of the sun breaking through clouds. It only takes two notes and you’re on a magic carpet of sound, soaring across the sky on the Jeff-stream.”

Suzi Quatro

“I remember Jeff Beck was in Detroit with producer Mickie Most to record at Motown with Cozy Powell. They were all together in the audience watching me with Cradle when Mickie picked me out as ‘the one’, and the rest is history. I ended up going to the studio with them after the show and jamming on Cissy Strut. It was one of the fondest and most surreal moments in my younger life. Jeff did me the honour of playing on my version of Desperado.

Duff McKagan

"I got to know Jeff ever since he tried to play with GNR in Paris in the early 90’s. He had to back out because his tinnitus flared up at the soundcheck. A few weeks later he came to a studio in London and played on my Believe In Me record. His guitar playing has remained some of my very favorite of all time.”

Doug Wimbish

“Jeff Beck was one of a kind. A true genius who played from the heart. In the Fall of 1984 I was working in NYC with Arthur Baker, who asked me to play bass on Jeff’s Flash album, which Arthur was producing. Arthur set up a jam session with Jeff, myself and Zack Alford over at Electric Lady Studios and Jeff and I hit it off.

"Flash was released in 1985 and was followed by a tour of Japan. Following the tour, Jeff and I started recording with Mick Jagger on his Primitive Cool album. A great person, a great spirit and a total legend to the core.”

Tal Wilkenfeld

“Jeff Beck’s light and power were so strong. I was convinced we’d be goofing around and making music until the day I leave this planet. Jeff, thank you for believing in me before anyone else did. You treated me like a daughter to the point where Wikipedia actually thought that was true!”

Stanley Clarke

"Jeff had so much fire and patience at the same time in his playing along with an unmatched uniqueness. I remember staying at his place outside of London in Tunbridge Wells along with Mike Garson. We were rehearsing for something and Jeff had his guitars laid out all over the place. We went from playing music to messing around with what I believe was Jeff’s greatest love…. his cars. He had this beautiful brown Roadster. I believe it had red fire decals on the side. I have so many great memories with him.”

Billy Sheehan

Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds is one of the most important records in my musical life. Paul Samwell-Smith is the inspiration for the neck-position EBO pickup on my original P Bass, and then, of course, Jeff Beck. Of the ‘Big Three’ (Page, Clapton and Beck), Jeff was my guy. From jamming Rice Pudding in a High School band, as well as performing so many others of Jeff’s songs. He was a beacon of creativity and improvisational expertise. Like no other.”

Gail Ann Dorsey

“Arguably the greatest guitarist ever? If not, very close to it. I got to witness his genius here in my hometown of Kingston NY back in 2010 at UPAC. I spent a few moments after the show in his gracious company. I am forever grateful for the innovative, captivating and passionate music he has blessed us with.”

Brian Ray

“For me, Jeff Beck was the true king of the electric guitar. He was a man who spoke a language no one else could speak, but one that we can all understand. Even Jimi Hendrix called him ‘the best living guitar player.’ He was the guitarist's guitar hero.”

Bryan Beller

“You can pretty much draw a line from everyone of note I've ever worked with straight back to Jeff Beck. His boundless creativity and inventive sonic artistry made instrumental guitar-driven rock and fusion a thing in the first place.”

Darryl Jones

“We have lost one of the most singularly gifted guitar masters ever to play the instrument. Jeff Beck influenced generations of players because of his completely unique approach to guitar playing. In my opinion, there is no one that comes close to playing the way he did. The music world has lost an irreplaceable talent.”

Paul McCartney

“Jeff Beck was a lovely man who played some of the best guitar music ever to come out of Great Britain. He was a superb technician and could strip down his guitar and put it back together again in time for the show. His unique style of playing was something that no one could match, and I will always remember the great times we had together. He would come over to dinner at our place or he and his wife, Sandra, would host an evening at their house. I will cherish forever the moments we spent together.

Jeff Beck has left the building and it is a lonelier place without him. God bless Jeff and his family.”

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Nick Wells
Writer

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.