(Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Art of Elysium)

It’s a Beck birthday celebraish! And what better way to mark the man and his music than to get crazy with the catalog.

Bek David Campbell was born in a rooming house in Downtown Los Angeles on July 8, 1970. His early childhood years were split between growing up near Hollywood Boulevard and living with his grandparents in Kansas.

Beck’s dad was a composer and conductor. His mom was a visual artist who grew up in NYC amidst Andy Warhol’s art scene and The Factory. His grandfather in Kansas was a Presbyterian minister. Is it all starting to make sense now?

Beck Birthday: A Confluence of Influence

When you grow up with a dad with a musical background, a mom with a talent for avant-garde art, and the church songs of your grandparents, you end up…well, you end up making music like Beck. There’s a little bit of it all.

And there’s this, too: Beck spent his formative teen years in L.A. He had Latin music and hip hop worming their way into his world, as well as folk and punk rock from bands like X. By 16, he was busking blues songs and breakdancing.

Beck Birthday: 6 Songs to Sum It All Up

When Beck’s Mellow Gold turned 30, I wrote about how it may well be the true Gen X soundtrack of the ’90s. It captured the sound and the spirit of that era in a way no other album did. And it instantly minted Beck as a Gen X sage.

I’m going to attempt to capture some of his magic in the six cuts below. The idea is to showcase not only Beck’s influences, but the way in which he’s been an influence. Take a scroll through the songs and let me know how I did.

  • "Pink Noise (Rock Me Amadeus)"

    Beck’s first two albums–1993’s Golden Feelings and 1994’s Stereopathetic Soulmanure–are a portrait of the artist in his nascency. Anti-folk abounds throughout a series of distorted, lo-fi home recordings and sound collages. This is the leadoff cut from the second of those albums and sums it all up succintly.

  • "Beercan"

    “Loser” was Beck’s breakthrough on his 1994 major-label debut Mellow Gold. But that album yielded two other charting singles, the second of which was this one. Beck tightened things up at a whiplash pace, showcasing both his ability to craft a hook and to dive deep into samples. Care Bears are showcased here.

  • "It's All In Your Mind"

    One Foot in the Grave was recorded before Mellow Gold, but released after on independent label K Records. Here’s Beck working with label founder Calvin Johnson and collaborating with alt rock contemporaries from Built to Spill and The Presidents of the United States of America. Even early on, Beck was influencing the alternative zeitgeist.

  • "Debra"

    Midnite Vultures is the Beck album fans love to hate. Or hate to love, depending on what side of the fence you’re on. A list like this wouldn’t be complete without “Debra,” which is…something else.

  • "Que' Onda Guero"

    The quasi-title track from Beck’s somewhat back-to-form 2005 release puts Hansen’s childhood on display. It’s also what I believe to be the best example of the influence of Latin sounds on the songs of Beck.

  • "Timebomb"

    It’s a one-off single from 2007. And it’s a prime example of the fact that, when he puts his mind to the task, Beck can craft an absolute banger.

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