Jim Beard, Keyboardist for Steely Dan, Dies at 63

Jim Beard, a Grammy-winning keyboardist, composer and member of Steely Dan since 2008, died Saturday in a New York hospital of complications from a sudden illness, a publicist announced. He was 63.

Beard had been touring with Donald Fagen’s Steely Dan on the Eagles’ current “Long Goodbye” tour; his final performance was Jan. 20 in Phoenix.

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Beard worked alongside such jazz legends as Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin and recorded with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, The Brecker Brothers, Mike Stern, Dianne Reeves, Meshell Ndegeocello and Steve Vai during his career.

He produced for Chick Corea, Al Jarreau and Esperanza Spalding and taught at institutions including the Mason Gross School of Arts, Berklee College of Music, Aaron Copland School of Music and the Sibelius Academy in Finland.

Beard recorded six solo CDs spanning the years 1990-2013 and won his Grammy in 2007 as a featured performer on the album Some Skunk Funk, from Randy and Michael Brecker.

Beard was born on Aug. 26, 1960, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. He attended Indiana University and worked with acts including Connie Stevens, Roger Miller and Bobby Rydell before setting up shop in New York in 1985.

Survivors include his children, Victor and Caitlin; his mother, Sarah; his sister, Nancy; and his brother, Bill.

Metheny called Beard “one of the few people around whose insight into the past is complete enough to take him to the future, and with a highly refined and subtle musicality at work, he is one musician from whom I always await each new release with anticipation.”

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