Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Dies Of Liver Failure

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 sh...
Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Dies Of Liver Failure
Written by Chris Crum

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:

There’s plenty more where that came from.

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