Jim Beard, longtime keyboardist for Steely Dan, dies at 63


Keyboardist Jim Beard, who spent more than a decade of his life playing for rock group Steely Dan, has died.

The band, formed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, confirmed Beard’s death in a brief statement shared on its website on Wednesday. “It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague,” the “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again” band wrote. (Becker died in 2017.)

A representative for Beard said he died Saturday in a New York City hospital after complications due to a sudden illness, according to multiple reports. Beard, who reportedly was surrounded by loved ones at the time of his death, was 63.

Beard, also a composer and producer, had collaborated with Steely Dan since the early aughts, bringing his music to releases including its 2003 album, “Everything Must Go.” His career also featured collaborations with “some of the greatest names in music,” including guitarist Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter and John McLaughlin, according to his website’s biography.

Bandleader Dizzy Gillespie, jazz duo Brecker Brothers and singer Dianne Reeves also were among Beard’s collaborators.

Beard’s passion for music can be traced to his childhood; he began learning to play the piano at age 6. He channeled his talents into a range of other instruments including clarinet, saxophone and bass. He attended Indiana University, where he received his degree in music and was awarded the Performers Certificate in piano and jazz studies. Before moving to New York in 1985, Beard played in a local band that performed music ranging from Motown to ’80s pop.

The musician, born on Aug. 26, 1960, in Ridley Park, Penn., published more than 100 compositions, performed at several jazz festivals including Live Under the Sky, and created music that can be heard in various Hollywood film scores, according to his biography. Beard also pursued solo work, releasing albums including “Advocate,” “Song of the Sun” and “Show of Hands.” In 2006, Beard won his first Grammy Award for his contributions to the Becker Brothers’ “Some Skunk Funk” live album.

Beard was an instructor at Mason Gross School of Arts, Berklee College of Music, Aaron Copland School of Music and Finland’s Sibelius Academy.

He last performed with Steely Dan in January at Phoenix’s Footprint Center, as part of the group’s ongoing tour. He is reportedly survived by son Victor and daughter Caitlin; his mother, Sarah; and siblings Nancy Canale and Bill Beard.



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