Jeff Hanneman, one of two guitarists for the legendary heavy metal band Slayer, has died of liver failure. He was 49. The above image currently appears on the band’s official site, where they shared the following statement:
Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed.
A couple years back, Hanneman began suffering from a skin disease called necrotizing fasciitis (which ironically sounds like it could have been the name of a Slayer song). This was believed to have stemmed from a spider bite. Guitar World shares a statement that band made in 2011:
“As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It’s been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he’s had several painful skin grafts, he’s been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm; but best of all, he’s been playing guitar.”
In February, bandmate Kerry King had reportedly indicated that Hanneman’s health was still an issue, though it’s not entirely clear at this point whether the liver failure is directly related to the illness described.
Hanneman was a founding member of Slayer. In fact, the band was formed in 1981 when Hanneman and King met while trying out for another band, and ultimately just decided to start their own. Slayer would go on to become one of the most influential bands in the history of the heavy metal genre. I think it’s safe to say that no other band, apart from possibly Metallica has had as much influence on modern day metal.
Slayer may not have achieved the mainstream success that Metallica has, but in the metal world, they’re just as big. Slayer did not produce songs that catered to radio play as Metallica did. This is about as close as they came to radio-friendly (keep in mind, they came up in the era before the Internet and satellite radio):
Slayer’s songs almost always took on life’s darker realities (and occasionally non-realities). Their “softer” songs tended to be about real-life serial killers. They didn’t have “Whiskey in the Jar” covers or sports arena anthems like “Enter Sandman” to propel them up the charts.
Still, Slayer’s influence has been heavily felt in the genre, without question, but also across other genres. The band’s song “Angel of Death” was used as the basis for a Public Enemy song, for example:
King played on the Beastie Boys’ classic Licensed to Ill album. The band has also collaborated with Ice-T and Atari Teenage Riot (who also sampled the band’s “Dead Skin Mask” for another song).
Even Tori Amos took on “Raining Blood”:
Search “Slayer cover” on YouTube, and you’ll find an endless plethora of bands and individuals trying to emulate what the band and Hanneman have given the world.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hanneman (and the rest of the band) one time after a show about thirteen of fourteen years ago. They were all incredibly cool and friendly, ready to chit chat with complete strangers, as they must have been doing night after night on tour. I won’t pretend that my brief encounter with Hanneman was anything more than that, but it always struck me how a band like that who has such massive fame (at least among its target audience) was that friendly to its fans. Plenty of others (including those with much less fame) are not like that. I returned to the same venue to see them again a few years later.
There are no doubt countless others with similar, and probably more interesting tales to tell of meeting Hanneman at shows, but many of his peers in the music world also have fond memories of him. Here are a few tweets from fans and friends:
Tonight one less star will be shining and sadly, the stage got just a little bit darker. Jeff Hanneman 1964-2013.
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) May 3, 2013
Brutal news about Jeff. Like a punch in the gut. Tonight will be a proper send off for our brother. #GoldenGods
— Scott Ian (@Scott_Ian) May 3, 2013
Everyone listen to Slayer tonight. RIP Jeff Hanneman.
— BTBAM (@btbamofficial) May 3, 2013
RIP to one of the most influential musicians of my life. He brought the worlds of punk and metal… instagram.com/p/Y09D1aGfxV/
— Converge (@Convergecult) May 2, 2013
on and on south of heaven…..nothing clever, nothing deep… this just sucks…. fb.me/1m3iVV34x
— Origin (@OriginBand) May 2, 2013
what?!jeff hanneman died :(really sad news.RIP to a great musician+ good guy to have a beer with. #neverforget
— JUCIFER (@_JUCIFER_) May 2, 2013
Breaking my Twitter vacation to express my sadness and sympathy to the friends, fans, and family of Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman #legend
— Oderus Urungus (@TheRealOderus) May 3, 2013
— Earache Records (@EaracheRecords) May 3, 2013
THE GENERAL JOURNALS: DIARY OF A FRONTMAN… AND OTHER RAMBLINGS—————–JEFF HANNEMANStill can’t…Facebook.com/MachineHead
— Robb Flynn (@TheGeneralMH) May 3, 2013
In the car when I heard the news. Cranked Hell Awaits immediately after. RIP Jeff Hanneman.
— Brian Posehn (@thebrianposehn) May 3, 2013
Jennyrose took this amazing picture when we saw Slayer in Seattle a couple years ago. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman <3 twitter.com/mrskimyadawson…
— kimya dawson (@mrskimyadawson) May 3, 2013
Words cannot describe the devastating news about losing our metal brother Jeff Hanneman. Love you Jeff. You will never be forgotten @slayer
— OVERKILL (@OverkillBand) May 3, 2013
Dedicating “Dear Brother” to Jeff Hanneman Today. Donkey Punch the Night, Jeff. RIP. Listen here: puscifer.com
— PUSCIFER (@puscifer) May 3, 2013
— Sasha Grey (@SashaGrey) May 3, 2013
— Guns N’ Roses (@gunsnroses) May 3, 2013
rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman, founding member of Slayer.
— Elijah Wood (@woodelijah) May 3, 2013
RIP brother. You will be missed. SLAYER Guitarist JEFF HANNEMAN Dead At 49 bit.ly/Yi7r5A
— Zakk Wylde (@ZakkWyldeBLS) May 2, 2013
Jeff Hanneman will always be a metal god. A true master, he gave energy and excitement to millions, and will continue to. #PartyForSlayer
— ANDREW WK (@AndrewWK) May 2, 2013
Rest In Peace Jeff Hanneman! A True Heavy Metal LEGEND! twitpic.com/cnp1b7
— Hatebreed (@hatebreed) May 2, 2013
RIP Jeff Hanneman. Icon.
— Chimaira (@chimairaband) May 2, 2013
We are so devasted to hear about the passing of Jeff Hanneman. One of the greatest have passed on and please,… fb.me/223dnN4vE
— In Flames OFFICIAL (@InFlames_SWE) May 2, 2013
— Vans (@VANS_66) May 2, 2013
— Eddie Trunk (@EddieTrunk) May 2, 2013
Jeff Hanneman of @slayer RIP. Wow. I’m so very soory for your loss Hanneman family.
— Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan) May 2, 2013
Tragic & shocking news about Jeff Hanneman. He is going to missed by so many. What a sad day for Metal. RIP man.
— Slash (@Slash) May 2, 2013
R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman, brother in thrash.
— Testament (@testament) May 2, 2013
RIP Jeff HannemanSad day for #Slayer fans
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) May 2, 2013
RIP TO A TITAN OF METAL;billboard.com/biz/articles/1…
— DAVID DRAIMAN (@DAVIDMDRAIMAN) May 2, 2013
There’s plenty more where that came from.