Keyboardist Jim Beard, Known for His Work with Steely Dan, Dead at 63

Keyboardist Jim Beard, Known for His Work with Steely Dan, Dead at 63 | Society Of Rock Videos

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Keyboardist Jim Beard, who was widely recognized for his contributions to the iconic rock band Steely Dan, has sadly passed away at the age of 63. According to a statement released by his family, Beard died on March 2nd as a result of complications from a sudden illness.

Remembering Keyboardist Jim Beard

Beard had been an integral member of Steely Dan’s touring lineup since 2008, showcasing his exceptional talent on the keyboard. Most recently, he was on tour with the band as they accompanied the Eagles on their renowned Long Goodbye tour. His final performance with Steely Dan took place on January 20th in Phoenix.

Born on August 26, 1960, in Philadelphia, Beard exhibited a passion for music at an early age. During his teenage years, he pursued his interest in jazz by studying arranging under renowned composer and trombonist Don Sebesky and piano with British keyboardist George Shearing. Throughout his college years, Beard collaborated with esteemed jazz musicians such as Slide Hampton and Red Rodney.

In 1985, Jim Beard made the bold choice to relocate to New York City, where he fully immersed himself in its vibrant music scene. Collaborating with a diverse array of jazz and fusion musicians, he lent his talents to both live performances and studio recordings.

Recognizing Beard’s exceptional skill, guitarist John McLaughlin invited him to join the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-1980s. Subsequently, Beard teamed up with saxophonist Wayne Shorter in 1986, embarking on tours alongside renowned jazz guitarists such as Joe Scofield and Pat Metheny.

During this period, Beard also ventured into his solo career, debuting with “Song of the Sun” in 1990. This marked the beginning of a prolific journey as a solo artist, with over half a dozen albums released over the years.

The Influence of Keyboardist Jim Beard

Beside his tenure with Steely Dan, Jim Beard maintained a packed schedule collaborating with a diverse array of artists across various genres. Among his noteworthy collaborations are with Bela Fleck, Al Jarreau, John Mayer, Meshell Ndegeocello, David Sanborn, Esperanza Spalding, and Steve Vai. Additionally, he contributed his expertise to solo projects by the late Steely Dan co-founder and guitarist, Walter Becker.

The announcement of Beard’s passing expressed that he transitioned in a New York hospital, surrounded by his loved ones. He leaves behind a legacy of musical brilliance survived by his son, daughter, mother, brother, and sister.

Steely Dan faced a challenge during their joint tour with the Eagles last fall when their frontman, Donald Fagen, fell ill and required hospitalization. Nonetheless, the tour is poised to proceed, with the next performance scheduled in Chicago this weekend.

Jim Beard’s exceptional talent and impact on Steely Dan and the broader music industry will be fondly remembered and cherished by fans and fellow musicians alike. His profound passion for music and extraordinary keyboard prowess have left an enduring impression on the realms of rock and jazz.

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