Steely Dan keyboardist Jim Beard dead at 63 following a 'sudden illness'

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Jim Beard, keyboardist for Steely Dan, has died aged 63.

Jim Beard - who has played keyboard for Steely Dan over the past 16 years - has died aged 63, a spokesperson for the group confirmed on Wednesday (March 6). The talented musician and solo artist passed away on March 2 due to complications from a sudden illness, reports suggest.

Steely Dan also confirmed the news via a short statement on the band's website. The post read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague JIM BEARD 1960 - 2024.”

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Beard started touring with Steely Dan for the 2008 'Think Fast' Tour. He performed his final show with the group in January 2024.

Born in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1960, Beard trained in clarinet, saxophone and string bass as a teenager and studied jazz at Indiana University, where he played in a bar band that featured session drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, John Fogerty) and trumpet player Chris Botti.

In 1985, Beard moved to New York and started his illustrious career in music. He composed on tracks by jazz musicians such as John McLaughlin and Michael Brecker, and toured the world with Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter.

Steely Dan performing in concert in 2015Steely Dan performing in concert in 2015
Steely Dan performing in concert in 2015 | Getty Images

As a recording artist, Beard worked with iconic acts such as Dizzy Gillespie. Dianne Reeves and Steve Vai. He also released six solo albums including 1990's 'Song of the Sun' and 2019's 'Chunks and Chairknobs'.

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He received a total of seven Grammy Award nominations for his compositions and production work, and even won one in 2007 for his playing on “Some Skunk Funk” by Randy and Michael Brecker.

When Beard wasn't in the studio or on the road, he taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University, the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York and the Sibelius Academy in Finland.

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