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Two kinds of Hall of Fame legends

MUSIC | Remembering Jeff Beck and David Crosby

Jeff Beck (left) and David Crosby Beck: Erik Kabik Photography/MediaPunch/IPX/AP; Crosby: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

Two kinds of Hall of Fame legends
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Jeff Beck died on Jan. 10 at the age of 78, David Crosby eight days later at 81. Musically, they inhabited different planets.

The Stratocaster-wielding Beck was an electric guitarist’s electric guitarist. “We’ve lost one of the pioneering top 1% guitar geniuses that will ever live!” tweeted Ted Nugent on Beck’s passing. “Every guitar player learned all of Jeff’s licks. …  His brilliance will live forever.”

Crosby, on the other hand, was a singer-songwriter’s singer-songwriter. “David was an unbelievable talent,” tweeted Brian Wilson. Added Rosanne Cash: “I can’t begin to say how influential Crosby, Stills and Nash were for me.”

Beck cut his teeth on the blues. Crosby was pure Laurel Canyon. Beck broke out by succeeding Eric Clapton in the hard-rocking British band the Yardbirds, Crosby by complementing with his sweet tenor the voices of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark in the folk-rocking American band the Byrds.

Beck went on to a protean solo career that found him immersed in everything from fusion jazz to Puccini’s “Nessun dorma.” By “Death and Resurrection Show,” a track from his 2022 collaboration with Johnny Depp, he’d discovered the joys of progressive metal.

Crosby went on to success with Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and—sometimes—Neil Young. As for the recordings he released under his own name, his peers insisted you’d find touches of genius if you knew what to listen for.

Beck preferred standard guitar ­tunings, Crosby nonstandard. Vast stretches of Beck’s Beckology, a somewhat premature three-disc overview released in 1991, rock. The adjective that best sums up Crosby’s 2006 three-disc overview Voyage (later rereleased as the slimmed-down The David Crosby Box): mellow.

For years, Crosby was tabloid ­fodder, in the news more for his drug problems than his talent. The ­easiest place to find the latest on Beck was the pages of Guitar Player magazine.

But the two shared similarities as well. Both were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, Beck with the Yardbirds and by himself, Crosby with the Byrds and with Crosby, Stills & Nash. And both were too stylistically restless to cut a musical profile onto which the public could easily latch.

Beck’s run of gold and platinum ran from 1968 to 1976—with the Jeff Beck Group (which launched Rod Stewart); with Beck, Bogert & Appice; and with the albums Blow by Blow and Wired. Crosby’s began and ended in 1971 with If I Could Only Remember My Name. Mostly, their sales hovered within the cult-sized range implied by “electric guitarist’s electric guitarist” and “singer-songwriter’s singer-­songwriter.”

But they kept recording and touring and releasing live discs and contributing to other people’s albums anyway, Beck because he felt that he still had a lot to give, Crosby because he felt, ­having passed 80 despite years of self-abuse, that he was racing against the clock.

Both of them were right.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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