Slayer's Jeff Hanneman and 8 Other Metallers Dead Before Their Time
Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman died of cirrhosis on May 2, the same day as the Golden Gods Awards. It was devastating that on a day meant to celebrate the lives of the best musicians in metal, one of those artists was taken from the world of music.
It also came as a shock. In fact, by all accounts, Hanneman's health appeared to have been improving -- he reportedly even looking forward to working on a new record. In memory of Hanneman, here are eight other musicians who influenced metal in a big way and were taken from us way before their time was up.
Hanneman wrote perhaps Slayer's best-known song, "Angel of Death" (from the band's breakthrough 1986 album, Reign in Blood), based on the atrocious experimental surgeries that Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele performed in Auschwitz during World War II. Though some critics took it as the members being Nazis or racists, Hanneman argued that Slayer was simply interested in history and evil -- he was a gigantic World War II buff, and his father served in that war.
It was yet another example of metal musicians being targets for similar accusations. I doubt critics would've accused a country or hip-hop artist of being racist if they sang about the same subjects.
Hanneman grew up in Southern California listening to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and was only a teenager when he formed Slayer in 1981 with guitarist Kerry King. The band, complete with bassist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo, went on to create some of the heaviest and darkest music in metal, rich with imagery and furious finger work.
It was presumed that Hanneman died because of the lingering effects of a spider bite that caused necrotizing fasciitis infection, which originally caused him to step away from being a full-time member of the band years back. I'll never forget when I saw him step on stage with Slayer at a Big 4 performance in Indio, California, in 2011. It was a magical moment for fans and all the band members who performed that night (Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth), since Hanneman was rarely performing with Slayer at the time.
But in an official press release from the band on May 9, the spider-bite theory was shot down by a physician, and it was revealed that the talented guitarist passed away due to alcohol-related cirrhosis. Apparently, no one knew until his final days just how seriously his health had deteriorated.
1. Randy Rhoads
Randy Rhoads helped set the bar for metal soloing with his precision and hyperspeed on tracks like Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," "Diary of a Madman," and "Mr. Crowley." Rhoads co-founded Quiet Riot as a teen, joined Ozzy's Blizzard of Ozz band in 1979, and according to reports never stopped taking guitar lessons, even while on tour. By the time he recorded his final album, Ozzy's Diary of a Madman, Rhoads was delving into classical music and jazz. He died in a plane crash in 1982 at age 25, but his influence reached musicians like Tom Morello, Zakk Wylde, and Nikki Sixx
Randy Rhoads on "Mr. Crowley":
2. Cliff Burton
Metallica inspired generations of metal bands and will continue to do so far into the future. Bassist Cliff Burton's catalog may be slim -- just Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets -- but it was enough to secure his legacy. Burton died at 24 in 1986, when Metallica's tour bus flipped over in Sweden. Thrash metallers Megadeth paid Burton an amazing tribute with the song "In My Darkest Hour," written by vocalist Dave Mustaine, who sat down and wrote the song in one hour after hearing of Burton's death.
Cliff Burton solos: