What Cliff Burton was really like and what James Hetfield remembers from the night he died

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The death of Cliff Burton, bassist for Metallica, is still considered one of the most painful moments in heavy metal, along with the departures of icons such as Lemmy Kilmister and Dio.

His premature departure occurred after an accident with the band’s bus in Sweden, in 1986, in the middle of a tour with Metallica. But what was Cliff really like? And what does his companion James Hetfield remember from the night he died? Check out Hetfield’s interview in Rolling Stones.

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Photo: Official Website – Ross Halfin

A guy with a true hero vibe was Cliff Burton. When his photo appears on the screens during his show, the applause from the crowd is truly moving. What was Cliff really like?

He was not a basic human being [risos]. He was a character. The first time we saw him was in Los Angeles, in some bar. His band, Trauma, had come from San Francisco to play. I heard a wild solo going on and thought, “I don’t see any guitarists up there.” It ended up being the bass player, Cliff, with a wah-wah pedal and this big head of hair. He didn’t care if there were people there. He was looking down at his bass, playing.

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We met him after the show. We said, “We’re in this band, we’re looking for a bass player, and we think you’d really fit in. Because you’re kind of crazy.” And he knew it. It was no surprise to him. But the music made him feel that way. He loved music. He was really intellectual, but very direct. He taught me a lot about attitude.

What do you remember about the night he died?

I saw him dead. It was really, really terrible. Me and him were up late that night-I was drinking vodka, he was smoking his favorite substance. We went to sleep and when the bus started to shake, I knew we were no longer on the road. When it hit the side, I went out the emergency hatch, turned around and saw people screaming. It was very cold, we were only in our underwear.

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I saw the bus lying on top of him. I saw his legs out. I was desperate. The bus driver, I remember, was trying to pull the blanket out from under him to use on other people. I just went there and said, “Don’t fucking do that!” I already wanted to kill the guy. I don’t know if he was drunk or if he hit some ice. All I knew was that he was driving and Cliff was no longer alive.

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The article is in Portuguese

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