Simply put, Beck is one of the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 1990s, the latest artist to be dubbed "the next Bob Dylan" by industry pundits. Like Dylan, Beck writes songs with cryptic lyrics, but unlike Dylan Beck draws not only from folk and rock traditions, but also from hip-hop, blues, country, psychedelic music, lo-fi indie rock, and other seemingly contradictory genres, creating a shambling collage-like sound all his own. Since bursting on to commercial radio and MTV in 1993, Beck has successfully maintained his artistic integrity yet managed to win over millions of fans, a rare combination of critical and commercial success.
Beck was born Beck Hansen in Los Angeles on July 8, 1970, the son of actress/musician Bibbe Hansen (who became one of Andy Warhol's "Superstars" at age 13) and bluegrass musician David Campell (who has written string arrangements for top-name bands such as Aerosmith), and the grandson of Al Hansen, an artist who helped found the FluXus movement. Not surprisingly, he was raised in an open, semi-bohemian environment, and grew up interested in art and music -- especially folk and blues-- learning to play acoustic guitar as a teenager.
In his late teens Beck moved to New York to participate in the East Village anti-folk scene, a minor musical movement that combined folk sounds with a punk aesthetic and innovative subject matter. When he returned to L.A. around 1990, Beck began playing local bars and parties, and recorded several singles, including 1993's "Loser," for the independent Bong Load Records label. By the end of 1993 "Loser" was getting alternative radio play nationwide; Beck quickly signed to DGC Records, which released his major label debut album, Mellow Gold (reportedly recorded for only $300), the following year. It won massive critical acclaim for its lo-fi synthesis of Dylanesque folk, Delta blues, hip-hop, rock 'n' roll, and Hank Williams-style country.
His 1996 follow-up, Odelay, produced by the Dust Brothers, was even more popular with critics and fans, spawning the hit single "Devil's Haircut" and "Where It's At." Beck has also remixed tracks for several bands, including the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and has continued to support independent labels by releasing highly experimental mini-albums on labels such as K Records.