American singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist Beck Hansen was born July 8, 1970 in Los Angeles. Beck liked hip-hop and folk and began to perform locally at coffeehouses and clubs. He moved to New York City in 1989 and became involved in the city’s small fiery anti-folk movement. Returning to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, he cut his breakthrough single “Loser”, which became a worldwide hit in 1994, and released his first major album, Mellow Gold, the same year. Odelay, with its sonically experimental and lo-fi style. Beck began as a folk musician, switching between country blues, Delta blues and more traditional rural folk music in his teens. He began performing on city buses, often covering Mississippi John Hurt alongside original, sometimes improvisational compositions. He was also in a band called Youthless that hosted Dadaist-inspired freeform events at city coffee shops.
In 1989, Beck went to New York City with little more than eight dollars and a guitar. He spent the summer attempting to find a job and a place to live and eventually began to frequent Manhattan’s Lower East Side where he discovered the East Village’s anti-folk scene’s first wave. Beck became involved in a loose posse of acoustic musicians—including Cindy Lee Berryhill, Kirk Kelly, Paleface, and Lach, headed by Roger Manning—whose raggedness and eccentricity placed them well outside the acoustic mainstream. Inspired by the freedom this gave him and by the local spoken-word performers, Beck began to write free-associative, surrealistic songs about pizza, MTV, and working at McDonald’s, turning mundane thoughts into songs. Beck and Paleface, attended many open mic nights together before Beck returned to his home of Los Angeles in early 1991. Where he worked at a video store in Silver Lake and started performing in arthouse clubs and coffeehouses such as Al’s Bar and Raji’s. In order to keep indifferent audiences engaged in his music, Beck would play in a spontaneous, joking manner. Beck would hop onstage between acts in local clubs and play “strange folk songs”, while sometimes wearing a Star Wars stormtrooper mask. Beck met someone who offered to help record demos in his living room, and he began to pass cassette tapes around.
Beck met Margaret Mittleman, the West Coast’s director of talent acquisitions for BMG Music Publishing, independent record label Bong Load Custom Records. Beck expressed an interest in hip hop, and Rothrock introduced him to Carl Stephenson, a record producer for Rap-A-Lot Records. In 1992, Beck visited Stephenson’s home to collaborate. The result—the slide-sampling hip hop track “Loser” was released in 1993. DJ Chris Douridas played the song on his radio program Morning Becomes Eclectic, and asked to have Beck play live on the air,” Douridas said. “He came in that Friday, rapped to a tape of ‘Loser’ and did his song ‘MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack. Beck performed at the Los Angeles club Cafe Troy to a packed audience and talent scouts from major labels. The song then spread to Seattle through KNDD, and KROQ-FM and Beck was beset with offers from major labels. Beck signed to GEFFEN A&R records. Beck also released the sprawling, 25-track collection of pre-“Loser” recordings titled Stereopathetic Soulmanure in 1994 and also released the the low-budget, genre-blending album Mellow Gold. “Loser” became a huge hit worldwide and Beck was subsequently dubbed “King of Slackers” with Critics, dubbing Loser the essential follow-up to Radiohead’s “Creep” among the disaffected Generation X,
Sadly by the summer of 1994, Beck was struggling and many of his fellow musicians thought he had lost his way with many believing that “Loser” was a “one-hit wonder”. Beck embarked on a world tourAt some concerts, crowds were treated to twenty minutes of reggae or Miles Davis or jazz-punk iterations of “Loser”. At one-day festivals in California, he surrounded himself with an artnoise combo. The drummer set fire to his cymbals; the lead guitarist “played” his char with the strings faced towards his body; and Beck changed the words to “Loser” so that nobody could sing along. However Beck gained the respect of his peers, such as Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, and created an entire wave of bands determined to recapture the Mellow Gold sound.
Beck’s second album Odelay was released in 1996 and was a blend of country, blues, rap, jazz and rock which was inspired by an unfinished studio album Beck first embarked on following the success of “Loser”, chronicling the difficult time he experienced. Beck put together an album of somber, orchestrated folk tunes which could have been a commercial blockbuster along with similarly themed work by Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana”. However Beck plucked one song from it “Ramshackle”—and shelved the rest (“Brother” and “Feather In Your Cap” were however later released as B-Sides). Beck was also introduced to the Dust Brothers, producers of the Beastie Boys’ album Paul’s Boutique, whose cut-and-paste, sample-heavy production suited Beck’s vision of a more fun, accessible album. It was another commercial success and critical acclaim. The record produced several hit singles, including “Where It’s At”, “Devils Haircut”, and “The New Pollution”, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1997, winning a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album as well as a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for “Where It’s At”. He also contributed “Deadweight” to the soundtrack of the film A Life Less Ordinary.
Beck released his next album Mutations in 1998 which was a far-cry from the cut-and-paste aesthetic of Odelay meant to capture the performance of the musicians live. However it was released against Beck’s wishes so he voided the Record Company contract and they then Counter-sued Beck for breach of contract and he was mired in litigation for years. However Beck was later awarded Best Alternative Music Performance for Mutations at the 42nd Grammy Awards.
Beck’s next album Midnite Vultures was released in 1999 and included hip hop and R&B, influences in the way Al Green and Stax records had done in previous decades. Musicians included bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and producer-engineers Mickey Petralia and Tony Hoffer plus Dozens of session players including Beck’s father, David Campbell, who played viola and arranged some of the strings. Beck wanted to make an up-tempo album that would be fun to play on tour night after night. Midnite Vultures was accompanied by a world tour. Beck, wanted to return to high-energy performances that had been his trademark as far back as Lollapalooza. Midnite Vultures was nominated for Best Album at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Sadly In 2000, Beck and his fiancée, stylist Leigh Limon, ended their nine-year relationship and Beck lapsed into a period of melancholy and introspection, during which he wrote some bleak, acoustic-based tracks which appeared on the next album Sea Change which was released in 2002. Music magazine Rolling Stone described it as “the best album Beck has ever made. Sea Change came second on the year’s Pazz & Jop Critics Poll. Beck subsequently toured with The Flaming Lips as Beck’s opening and backing band. During the tour Beck was playful and energetic, sometimes throwing in covers of The Rolling Stones, Big Star, The Zombies and The Velvet Underground.
Following the release of Sea Change, Beck Wanted to change direction, and wrote nearly 35 more songs. Sadly though During his solo tour, these Demo tapes were left backstage during a stop in Washington, D.C., and Beck was never able to recover them. During the recording of Beck’s eighth studio album, Guero, several significant events occurred in his life: his girlfriend, Marissa Ribisi, became pregnant; they were married; their son, Cosimo, was born; and they moved out of Silver Lake. He collaborated with the Dust Brothers again for Guero which was released in 2005 and was notable for their use of high-tech measures to achieve a lo-fi sound. Guero featured the song “E-Pro”. Beck also collaborated with artists 8-Bit and Paza on the Hell Yes, EP. Geffen also released Guerolito, a fully reworked version of Guero featuring remixes by the Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock, the Dust Brothers’ John King and Boards of Canada. Guerolito combined remixes previously heard as B-sides and new versions of album tracks. A Brief Overview, a 12-track promotional-only “History of Beck” compilation CD sampler was also released, this featured a combination of older and newer Beck tracks. Beck’s ninth studio album,
The Information began production around the same time as Guero, in 2003 For The Information Beck made low-budget videos to accompany each song, packaged the CD with sheets of stickers so buyers could customize the cover, and leaked tracks and videos also appeared on his website. Digital download releases automatically downloaded the song’s additional video for each single sale, and physical copies came bundled with an additional DVD featuring fifteen videos. In 2007, Beck released the single “Timebomb”, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. Beck’s tenth album Modern Guilt was produced by Danger Mouse and released in 2008. This was full of off-kilter rhythms and left-field breakdowns, with an overall 1960s vibe”. Beck had known Danger Mouse before, and ended up working with Danger Mouse’s side project, Gnarls Barkley. Beck began working more heavily on his own seven-year-old label, focussing on smaller, more quixotic projects,Beck moonlighted as a producer, working with artists such as Charlotte Gainsbourg, Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus.
Beck also founded Record Club, a project whereby an entire classic album—by The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, INXS, Yanni—would be covered by another singer in the span of a single day. Beck provided four songs for the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), each attributed to the title character’s fictional band, Sex Bob-Omb Beck also collaborated with Philip Glass,Jack White, Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Jamie Lidell, Seu Jorge, Childish Gambino, and The Lonely Island. Beck released Song Reader which comprised songs presented only as sheet music,to inspire enterprising musicians to record their own versions. The idea of Song Reader came about shortly after the release of Odelay after Beck was sent a book of transcribed sheet music for that album, He aimed to keep the arrangements as open as possible, to re-create the simplicity of the standards, and became preoccupied with creating only pieces that could fit within the Great American Songbook. In 2013 Beck began playing special Song Reader concerts with a variety of guests and announced he was working on a record of Song Reader material with other musicians.
In 2014 Beck released the electro ballad “Defriended”, the chorus-heavy “I Won’t Be Long” and the song Gimme and also released his twelfth studio album, Morning Phase, reuniting him with musicians who had worked on Sea Change. This contained the songs “Blue Moon” and, “Waking Light”. Beck also Headlined the Boston Calling Music Festival in May 2015. Morning Phase also won three Grammys for : Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; Best Rock Album; and Album of the Year at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Beck untitled forthcoming album includes the songs “Dreams”,”Wow” and “Up All Night” “7th Heaven,” “Dear Life” and “No Distraction”