Born February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, California
Died September 27, 1986
September 27, 2012 marks the 26th anniversary of the death of Metallica bass player Cliff Burton.
In 1986, after having signed their first deal with a major label, Metallica were on top of the world. They released their third album, Master of Puppets, but their first on the major label Elektra.
While on tour in Sweden, Burton and guitarist Kirk Hammett drew cards to see who would get to choose their bunk for the night in the tour bus. Drawing the Ace of Spades, Burton chose the bunk that Hammett had been sleeping in, and Hammett moved to the front of the bus.
Shortly before 7 a.m., the band members were awoken by the bus veering erratically and subsequently crashing. The bus left the road and flipped on it’s side. Burton, who had been sleeping in the top bunk he won from Hammett, was thrown through the window and the bus fell on top of him.
There are varying reports of how Burton died. Questions remain whether he was killed by the bus falling on top of him or the subsequent rescue attempt which had a crane lifting the bus off him only to drop the bus again.
The driver of the bus, who has since been cleared of any wrongdoing, stated that he hit a patch of black ice and lost control of the vehicle. James Hetfield, lead vocalist, has stated that he walked up and down the highway in his socks and underwear looking for black ice and never found any. Hammett, Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich have speculated over the years whether drugs and alcohol or the driver falling asleep at the wheel contributed to the crash.
The one thing that is known is that metal fans lost a great man that day. Let’s all take a moment today to remember Cliff Burton and send out good vibes to his family and band mates.
Here is the heartbreaking video of the band discussing the death of Burton from VH1’s Behind the Music: