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Beck Biography

Beck Sea Change Album
Beck Sea Change album cover

If you are a fan of the musical artist Beck, biography details of his colorful life and music will be of interest to you. While Beck has sold millions of records, made incredibly eclectic music videos, and toured the world performing high-energy concerts to packed houses, the tale of how he became a member of contemporary popular music's royalty will likely surprise you.

Beck Biography - The Early Years

When we look at the life of an artist like Beck, biography information that is the most revealing often relates to the early years. So it is with Beck. Although he presently goes by the name Beck Hansen (which is almost always shortened to Beck), he was born Bek David Campbell on July 8, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. Beck's mother Bibbie Hansen and father David Campbell were both professional artists. His father David was a bluegrass musician and his mother Bibbie was a visual artist, an actress, and a musician.

Both parents were active in the art scene of the 1960s, particularly his mother. Bibbie, at age 13, was one of pop-artist Andy Warhol's Superstar's, a collection of intriguing personalities who Warhol socialized with in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Other notable Superstars included Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Viva, and Candy Darling. Beck's maternal grandfather, Al Hansen, was also a renowned artist who was a formative member of the Fluxus movement, an avant-garde art movement that stresses a do-it-yourself ethic towards the creation of simply, humorous, and poignant art. The movement also included such famous artists as John Cage and Yoko Ono.

The Formative Music Years

Beck's parents separated at an early age, but he stayed with his mother and brother in Los Angeles. Growing up in a world city like Los Angeles exposed Beck to a wide variety of music at an early age. Hip-hop was a large influence on him, but he was also surrounded by other sounds of the city like traditional Latin folk music, rock-n-roll, experimental music, blues, and even country. After dropping out of high school, Beck travelled through Europe playing music in the streets and in coffee shops. He spent time with his grandfather Al in Germany at this time and became influenced by his grandfather's style of artistic expression. When he returned to the United States, he lived for a brief period in New York and became a part of the anti-folk scene, a movement that sought to take the tropes of traditional American folk music and subvert them. Other notable anti-folk artists are Michelle Shocked and Ani DiFranco.

Beck's Big Break

After returning to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, Beck continued to explore his musical impulses and further developed his sound. In the summer of 1993, Beck got his big break. A song he collaborated on with hip-hop producer Carl Stephenson called Loser became a surprise hit. The four-minute song - a hip-hop meets country meets delta blues experimental masterpiece - featured layers of seemingly unrelated sounds like sitars, dialogue from films, sardonic lyrics, and a huge dose of humor. The incredibly catchy chorus mixes Spanish and English in the famous line Soy un perdedor/I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?. While many people assumed that the song was a fluke and Beck was destined to be a one hit wonder, he would quickly and decisively prove them wrong.

From Loser to Grammy Winner

In 1996, Beck followed up the success of Loser with one of the most creative and seminal records of the 1990's. Odelay, produced by legendary hip-hop producers The Dust Brothers, sold over two million copies, won two Grammy's, and spawned the hits Where It's At, The New Pollution, and Jack-Ass. Two years later, Beck chose the expansive production style of Nigel Godrich, famous for his work with Radiohead and Pavement, to craft the more somber, emotive album Mutations. While featuring no radio hits, Mutations won the artist another Grammy.

Mutations was followed up by a return to the party-tinged style of his earlier work. 1999's Midnight Vultures featured a funkier, playful sound rich in horns and humor. His world tour that supported Midnight Vultures began to earn Beck a reputation as a world-class showman whose high-energy stage shows kept fans coming back again and again.

In 2002, Beck released what many consider to be his greatest work to date, the dark and dreamy album Sea Change. Inspired by the breakup of his long time relationship, Sea Change shows a more reflective, contemplative side of Beck. The record received rave reviews from the critical community including a five star review from Rolling Stone. Beck toured the world on this record with The Flaming Lips acting as both his opening act and his backup band.

Post-Sea Change and The Future

Following Sea Change, Beck has released three records, Guero, The Information, and Modern Guilt, that continue to showcase his seemingly limitless musical innovation. He has continued to work with producers The Dust Brothers and Nigel Godrich, but has also branched out to work with new producers like Danger Mouse, famous for his work with Jay-Z, Gnarls Barkley, and the Gorillaz. This ebb and flow of musical experimentalism has become a reoccurring quality of Beck's creative process. Even as he returns to musical approaches that have worked for him in the past, he is never afraid of taking steps into uncharted directions. It seems apparent that, when it comes to Beck, biography details of interest will continue to pile up for years to come.

Beck Biography