Cliff Burton Died 28 Years Ago: Hail to Metallica’s Fallen Hero [VIDEO]

In the overnight hours of September 27, 1986, along a dark, treacherous road in Sweden, original Metallica bassist Clifford Lee Burton died in a tour bus accident. He was just 24 years old. The band, and the world, have missed him ever since.
Metallica’s first three albums still stand as an extreme rock achievement that virtually no other band, heavy metal or otherwise, has come close to in terms of impact, innovation, ongoing influence, and all-out head-banging, whiplashing, butt-stomping mightiness. Much of their success emerges from the one-of-a-kind presence of Cliff Burton.
After witnessing Burton’s magic on a Rickenbacker 4001 while he played with San Francisco-based group Trauma, founding Metallica members James Hetfield (vocals and guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), and Dave Mustaine (lead guitar, pre-Megadeth) so wanted the bassist to join them that they relocated from L.A. to the Bay Area. The rest is thrash metal history.
Beyond virtuoso instrumental technique and superlative songwriting ability, Burton expanded Metallica’s musical vocabulary with his passion for the Misfits’ horror-core, early U2’s anthemic power, Thin Lizzy’s live layered guitars, and the vocal harmonies of R.E.M. Those were bold ingredients to add to extreme metal back in the early ’80s. Metallica, by way of Cliff Burton, made them rock.
Compounding the tragedy of Metallica’s traffic accident is that the first impact didn’t initially kill Burton. He died after a crane lifting the bus off him gave way, and the bus slammed back down on his body. That demise is “more metal,” so to speak, but hardly provides sufficient consolation.
So let’s honor Cliff Burton today by blaring the albums Kill ’Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets. For a particularly intense memorial, check out the video below of Cliff’s instrumental masterwork, “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”. Cliff ’em all–and then check out our 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Metallica article, even though you’re probably the kind of guy who knows that stuff…

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