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Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Dead at 49

Founding member of influential thrash band succumbs to liver failure


By Alex Baker


Slayer guitarist and founding band member Jeff Hanneman died yesterday at the age of 49. Hanneman, who co-founded Slayer with Kerry King in 1981, suffered from liver failure and passed away at a hospital near his California home.


The band issued an official statement, saying “Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman passed away at about 11am this morning. He was at an area hospital.”


Hanneman had been taking a hiatus from playing with Slayer while dealing with health issues stemming from a near fatal spider bite the guitarist had suffered in 2011.


Back in the Eighties, the Oakland, CA born Hanneman helped put thrash metal on the map, along with his Slayer band mates: fellow guitarist King; singer/bassist Tom Araya; and drummer Dave Lombardo. A deal with Rick Rubin‘s Def Jam record helped Slayer consolidate their position as one of thrash metal’s “big four,” putting them on the same strata as Metallica, Megadeath, and Anthrax.


Hanneman got his first guitar as a teenager, a Gibson Les Paul he paid $500 for. He went on to be hailed as one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists of his era and was voted one of the 100 all time greatest guitarists by Guitar World magazine.


He nearly lost his life in 2011 after suffering a spider bite while in the hot tub. The bite nearly killed him and he was extremely fortunate not to have his arm amputated. He required several skin grafts. His last appearance with Slayer came at a thrash metal big four reunion show in Indio, CA when he strutted onstage and joined the band for performances of “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death” that ignited the crowd of 50,000.


Apart from some wild early days with the band, Hanneman largely eschewed the rock and roll lifestyle. The guitarist and songwriter was married in 1997 and is survived by his wife Kathy.


Dave Mustaine of Megadeath, had this to say of his fallen colleague:


“We send our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and fans of Hanneman. Our hearts go out to his brothers in Slayer. Tonight one less star is shining and sadly, the stage just got a little bit darker.”

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