Steely Dan keyboardist Jim Beard passes away following sudden illness

 March 7, 2024

Fans of the classic rock band Steely Dan were saddened this week to learn that keyboardist Jim Beard died following a sudden illness. 

The New York Post cited a statement released by Beard's representative which explained that the 63-year-old passed away in a New York City hospital last weekend where he was "surrounded by loved ones."

A career stretching back decades

The newspaper recalled how Beard joined Steely Dan in 2008 and last performed with the group on January 20 at a concert in Phoenix, Arizona.

The band reacted to Beard's passing with a message on its website that read, "It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague Jim Beard."

Fox News noted that Beard was born in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania and developed a solo jazz career as well as becoming an accomplished pianist, composer, producer and arranger.

Beard's career saw him partner with a variety of legendary artists, including Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Dizzy Gillespie, the Brecker Brothers, Dianne Reeves, Meshell Ndegeocello, Toninho Horta, and Steve Vai.

Beard won a Grammy in 2007

What's more, Beard contributed music for television shows and radio call signals along with several piano-themed movie scores.

He was also known for playing live at the Metropole Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Fox News pointed out that Beard received seven Grammy nominations throughout his career and won in 2007 for his performance on "Some Skunk Funk" with the Brecker Brothers.

The late artist is survived by his brother, Bill Beard, his mother, Sarah Beard, and his two children, Victor and Caitlin Beard.

Late artist remembered for being a "genius"

News of Beard's passing was quickly met with tributes on social media, including from fellow Grammy Award winner Antonio Sanchez.

Sanchez lamented that he "can not believe the great Jim Beard is gone" and praised the keyboardist for being "a gentle soul and an insanely talented artist" whose death represented "an untimely loss."

Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel spoke up as well, calling Beard "a musical giant and inspiration to so many." Wendel stressed that he is "incredibly grateful I had a chance to hang with you and get a little insight into your genius."

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