Jim Beard, Steely Dan Keyboardist, Dies at 63

Jim Beard, a keyboardist, producer and arranger who was playing for Steely Dan since 2008, has died due to complications from a sudden illness. He was 63.

A rep for the musician confirmed Beard’s death to Variety in a statement issued on Wednesday. Beard died in a New York hospital surrounded by loved ones. Steely Dan also uploaded a black and white photo of Beard on their website with the statement, “It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of our friend and colleague.”

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Beard was born on Aug. 26, 1960, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. He is highly lauded for his work in the jazz community, particularly for his recordings with Wayne Shorter and John McLaughlin. As a touring musician, Beard participated in global tours for Pat Metheny, McLaughlin and Shorter, and Steely Dan, which he joined in 2008. He had been traveling and performing recently with the band for the Eagles’ current “Long Goodbye” tour. His last performance with Steely Dan was on Jan. 20 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ, where the band played for two consecutive nights.

As a session musician, Beard played with and for Dizzy Gillespie, the Brecker Brothers, Dianne Reeves and Meshell Ndegeocello, according to the biography on his website which also cites his 100 published compositions and seven Grammy recognitions.

Beard also 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.

He is survived by his son and daughter, Victor and Caitlin Beard, and by his mother, Sarah, sister Nancy Canale, and brother, Bill Beard.

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