Steely Dan Keyboardist Jim Beard Dies at 63

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Jim Beard, a keyboardist known for his work with Steely Dan and alongside jazz legends Wayne Shorter and John McLaughlin, died Saturday from complications that stemmed from a “sudden illness,” a representative announced Wednesday. He was 63.

Beard died at a hospital in New York City, the statement said. An exact cause of death was not released.

A Pennsylvania native, Beard moved to New York City in 1985 to launch a career in music. He toured the country playing alongside jazz musicians and rock banks, eventually joining Steely Dan in 2008.

Beard performed with Steely Dan up until his death, but also recently hit the road with the Eagles on its “Long Goodbye” tour, which wrapped up on Jan. 20 with a show in Phoenix.

Other artists he performed alongside included Dizzy Gillespie, the Brecker Brothers, Dianne Reeves, Meshell Ndegeocello, Toninho Horta, and Steve Vai, he wrote in an online biography page. The musician added that he had over 100 published compositions featured on recordings by McLaughlin, Michael Brecker, and many others.

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The musician Peter Erskine posted a tribute to Beard on Wednesday, writing that he “was the glue and such a great presence on so many projects.”

“I’m going to miss the man, his wit and his musical incisiveness,” he said. “You made a difference, Jim.”

Other musicians flooded social media with tributes to Beard, including Ben Wendel, a Grammy-nominated saxophonist who called him a “musical giant.”

“Thank you for everything Jim Beard,” he said. “You were a musical giant and inspiration to so many. I am incredibly grateful I had a chance to hang with you and get a little insight into your genius.”

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