Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Fallen Legend - Dimebag Darrell

Legends are merely what we make of them, yet at times those legends become so inflated that we lose the basic reality of the legend.  While its true that legends endure and continue to retain that inflated state, it is also true that with said state, piety takes hold.  Music has an indelible quality to raise the simple musician to the pious state of "Rock God" and as with every legend there are always those that truly are legends.

"Rock Gods" are often labeled as such when they achieve some form of success, whether it be the prototypical frontman like Jim Morrison, or the infamous drummer Keith Moon legends stay the course.  Surely either man will remain legends but all too often other "legends" come in at sunrise and leave at sunset.  Often this type of legend is remembered for nefarious behavior and not because of their skills as the artist that they are.

While traffic accidents, overdoses, hotel room devastation and hundreds of groupies make the "legend of the legend", many fall through the cracks using their talent as an artist, a true unassuming artist are what real legends are made of.  Who would assume that a person, a brilliant person the likes of Quincy Jones is a legend for any other reason than his skill?  In the world that is music more specifically rock music, legends are beyond gifted artists, they are usually unassuming types and and they typically don't realize they are indeed brilliant.

While the names of guitarists / legends like Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen and Zakk Wylde invoke the most powerful responses to their fans.  Its impossible to think of any of these gentlemen are anything other than brilliant but another name must be added to that list:  "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.

I have seen footage of Jimi Hendrix (I also listened to some LP's my parents had secretly as my Mom didn't like Hendrix because of his use of drugs), I have listened to Randy Rhodes over and over so many times that the cassettes I listened to wore out with remarkable speed.  I was blessed in my late teens to see Eddie Van Halen in concert (Monsters of Rock with Van "Hagar" as the headliner) and much like Randy Rhodes I wore out the cassettes I had with Zakk Wylde making his guitar scream while playing with another legend, Ozzy Osbourne.  Dimebag was different than each of them in my little music world.

I saw Dimebag perform in Dubuque, IA at the Five Flags Center on the "Cowboys From Hell" tour while he was performing with the legendary "Pantera".  I had the cassette "Cowboys From Hell" (yes I was too cheap to buy a CD player) and I had what seemed like the "inside scoop" on what was about to happen when they took the stage and I can't express in any way what I saw that night.  Actually that's not true, I saw a complete wildman fronting the band (Phil Anselmo) and this fiend beating the living crap out of my eardrums with his guitar (Dimebag).  Often in the world of what is "thrash metal", the listener is exposed to an assault of the eardrums with loud, brash noise but not when Dime played.

Dimebag had this incredible ability to be just as loud and brash as any of his contemporaries but unlike them, Dime made the most incredible, melodic music anyone has ever heard.  I saw Pantera once, only once but I continued to buy their cassettes (still cheap was I) and I listened to them to the point that the cassettes were just long brown strands of tape fluttering in the wind.  One day a friend of mine had a piece of music he wanted me to listen to, he promised I would be impressed.  As the song "Fractured Mirror" (an Ace Frehley classic) began to play I was amazed.

"Fractured Mirror" is one of the most incredible pieces of music in modern "metal" but what Dime and his brother Vinne Paul (drums) did in recording the song was mind blowing.  Dime had this affinity to make the most complex song sound effortless while performing at a level many guitarists couldn't.  In learning that Dime had formed a new band with Vinnie Paul called "Damageplan" I got excited and when I saw the CD (yes I said CD), I scooped it up and bought it.  "Damageplan" was this confluence of music, lyrics, vocals and guitar that blew me away, I felt like a kid on Christmas ripping open my gifts expecting a GI Joe (with the Kung Fu grip) and actually getting it.

On the 8th of December, 2004 Dime and Vinnie were playing a live show in Columbus, OH when Nathan Gale shot and killed Dime on stage.  Sadly Gale killed three people (including Dime) and wounded seven others before he was shot and killed by a police officer.  Music not just "thrash metal" lost one of the most important, beloved and talented musicians that graced us with his humble brilliance.  Before Dime was taken from us all he was already a legend, he was special and like Randy Rhodes, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and oh so many more music "legends" he was taken too soon.

Dimebag Darrell Abbott has left an indelible mark on music, and with his passing we lost an artist that will be often imitated but never duplicated.  The history of music should reflect that Dime was a legend because of what he did and how well he did it, and with that Dime will be remembered for those achievements and not a just another lost musician.

Rest in Peace Dime. 

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