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Few Rock songs had the impact of "Loser." Not only was the thrash Rock approach compelling, the lyrics refused to be ignored. "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me." Coming just as Grunge was peaking or about to go over the high side (take your pick) "Loser" struck a receptive chord and became a Gen X anthem. Well, somebody had to do it. As the accompanying "Mellow Gold" album hit the streets Beck was dubbed the "next big thing."

L.A. native Beck was born in '70 with the moniker Beck David Campbell. Growing up in a musical family, Beck dropped the Campbell and took his mother's maiden name, Hansen, after his parents split. Only able to handle public education to the 9th grade, Beck bailed and became immersed in the local Punk-Folk scene. Interestingly, Beck didn't seem poised to become one of the '90s cultural linchpins. Influenced by Blues legend Mississippi John Hurt and Folk great Woody Guthrie, Beck favored acoustic accompaniment for his preachy lyrics, which put him in line to be the 1,312th Bob Dylan clone. Fortunately he was spared this inglorious fate. Gaining local notoriety, Beck met Hip-Hop producer Karl Stephenson. The two collaborated on some indie projects with the song "Loser" catching all the attention. Soon the DCG label tapped Beck.

Beck's music, like L.A., had a "no there, there" quality. It was a synthesis of just about everything that came over the transom. Beck even managed to secure for himself a significant amount of artistic freedom. Namely, CDs that both he and his label felt were "non-commercial" could be released on indie labels. The electronic/experimental (read: clamorous) "Stereopathic Soul Manure" and the Folk oriented "One Foot In The Grave" went the indie route. Fans, and they were numerous, bought it all.

In '96, two years after his major label debut, Beck released "Odelay." With "Where It's At" and the explosive "Devil's Haircut," the CD stands as his best Rock effort. Produced by the Dust Brothers, "Odelay" solidified Beck's icon status. Alienation, the quest for freedom and the desire to set things right - all the old Folkie themes updated and delivered with catchy hooks and driving beats.

The mellower "Mutations" came out in '99 followed by the "all-over-the-board" "Midnite Vultures." The infamous Dust Brothers returned in '05 for "Guero," Beck's sixth major label effort. The next year Beck issued "The Information."

Though released only a year after "Guero," "The Information" reportedly took three years to complete. The "quasi Hip-Hop" set contained the single "Nausea" and peaked at #7 on the Billboard album chart.

By early '08, Beck was working on his next album with the ubiquitous Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton) who had recently produced The Good, The Bad & The Queen and Black Keys. Beck's "Modern Guilt" was issued in July ('08).

Beck provided four songs for the '10 film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ("Ramona," "Garbage Truck," "Threshold" and "Summertime"). But that was, by Beck standards, a bit ordinary. His next idea was intriguing.

What if you wrote an album's worth of songs but didn't recorded them - at least not right away.

That was '12's "Song Reader," which was only available on sheet music. Allowing for some latitude on arrangements, the idea was encourage other musicians to record their own versions of the songs. The concept didn't exactly catch fire so in '13 Beck began playing special "Song Reader" concerts with a variety of guests.

That led to "Warby Parker Presents Song Reader: 20 Songs By Beck" which included tracks recorded by Jack White ("I'm Down" sounds like a White Stripes track) and Norah Jones.

Beck's next effort actually put him in a studio. "Morning Phase," a laid back set, dropped in '14.

It debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling more than 87,000 in its first week, becoming Beck's second highest charting album in the U.S., after '05's "Guero." "Morning Phase" won three Grammys: Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; Best Rock Album; and Album of the Year at the 57th ('17) Annual Awards.

Beck also contributed to social causes. He was among the performers for a sell-out, star-studded audience at PETA US' 35th anniversary gala at the Hollywood Palladium in L.A. and was one of over 150 musicians and artists who signed an open letter to Congress pleading for an end to gun violence. The letter, drafted by the editors of Billboard magazine, came in the wake of the murder of Voice contestant Christina Grimmie and the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando.

Showing his California roots Beck participated in the Echo in the Canyon concert at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Southern California Folk Rock. He covered The Byrds "Going Back" and "The Bells Of Rhymney."

When it was time for another album, Beck kept it an intimate affair. "Colors" was recorded at producer/songwriter Greg Kurstin's L.A. studio with Beck and Kurstin playing nearly every instrument.

From the album, "Up All Night," topped the Billboard Adult Alternative Chart. That achievement was matched when "Colors" won the 2019 Grammy Award for the Best Alternative Music Album.

Beck had three notable collaborations released in '19. He worked with Jenny Lewis on the song "Do Si Do" from her album "On The Line." He also collaborated with Cage the Elephant on the song "Night Running" from their album "Social Cues."

And finally, Beck released a single "Saw Lightning" which was co-produced with Pharrell. That song plus "Dark Places" were on Beck's from his fourteenth studio album, "Hyperspace."

Beck Discography


1993 Golden Feelings
1994 Stereopathetic Soulmanure
1994 Mellow Gold
1994 One Foot In The Grave
1996 Odelay
1998 Mutations
1999 Midnite Vultures
2002 Sea Change
2005 Guero
2006 The Information
2008 Modern Guilt
2014 Morning Phase
2017 Colors
2019 Hyperspace

It all comes down to "Mellow Gold" and "Odelay." These are not purely Rock (or any subset) efforts but they are as close as he comes and as compelling as he gets. That's not to say any of his other adventures don't have good music.

"Mutations" delivers Bossa Nova and Blues while "Midnite Vultures" moves from Hip-Hop to Country.

"The Information" is the usual Beck collection of styles. Many of the songs could find a home on "quality Rock" stations or in your local Starbucks.

Given that "Modern Guilt" is a Beck album produced by Danger Mouse, there are the obvious loops and electronic embellishments. There's also a very accomplished Rock n' Roll record.


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