Iconic rock guitarist Jeff Beck dead at 78

Jeff Beck, the influential guitarist who rose to rock and roll stardom with 1960s supergroup the Yardbirds and later had a prolific solo career, has died, his official website said Wednesday. He was 78.

The eight-time Grammy award-winner, a guitar virtuoso and innovator who was also one of the world's great rhythm and blues interpreters, died "peacefully" after a sudden bout of bacterial meningitis.

"On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck's passing. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday," a statement on the English-born musician's website said.

"His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss."

Beck's death quickly reverberated around the music world, with tributes pouring in from rock icons like Ozzy Osbourne, with whom Beck once collaborated, and Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons, who called Beck's passing "heartbreaking."

"No one played guitar like Jeff," Simmons posted on Twitter. "Please get ahold of the first two Jeff Beck Group albums and behold greatness. RIP."

Musician Paul Young said he was "devastated" to hear the news.

"He was loved by everyone in the know," Young tweeted, calling Beck "the guitarists' guitarist."

Beck had already done pioneering rock recordings by the time he was hired by the Yardbirds in 1965 immediately after the departure of one of the band's star guitarists, Eric Clapton.

Beck helped propel the British avant-garde rock sound with multiple groundbreaking recordings, including the fuzz-filled guitar licks on "Heart Full of Soul."

By 1966 he was paired in the Yardbirds with fellow guitar wizard Jimmy Page, who went on to found the British blues rock sensation Led Zeppelin.

A year later Beck formed his own band, the Jeff Beck Group, which swiftly drew widespread praise.

In 2015 Rolling Stone magazine placed Beck at number five in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.