Remembering Dimebag Darrell Abbott on the Sixth Anniversary of His Death
Band Photo: Damageplan (?)
Dimebag Darrell would have celebrated his 44th birthday this past August, no doubt surrounded by friends and family, the love of his life Rita Haney, and his big brother Vinnie.
Black tooth grins would have been downed, and more than a few fireworks probably would have been shot up into the sky and at unsuspecting revelers. It would have been a true celebration of life, because, as the man himself often said, that’s the kind of fun Dime had. But six years ago to the day that lifelong celebration, along with the lives of four other members of the global metal family, was cut tragically short. By now we all know the story, there’s no sense in reliving the grisly details. Dime wouldn’t want us to dwell on the way he died; he would want us to focus on the way he lived.
To a person, everyone who came into contact with Dimebag Darrell as he made his way around the world several times over playing the music he loved was made to feel like an equal, like a friend. With Dime, there were no walls between the fans and the musicians, between crew and band. There was only kinship and a common love of music and having the best time humanly possible. Even those of us who never met the man felt like we knew him from watching the Pantera home videos and seeing him exude one hundred percent uninhibited enthusiasm on stage each and every night and completely unfiltered, boyish joy off stage when he partied with his brothers by blood and by metal, the hardest drinking band in the business, Pantera.
As we once again mark the passing of the man born Darrell Lance Abbott, we perhaps have more reason for hope this year than in years past, as two of those who were closest to him, his longtime girlfriend Rita Haney and his front man and friend Phil Anselmo, appear to have let the wounds inflicted by the acrimonious split of Pantera and certain comments made by Anselmo, taken out of context in the metal press and circulated with tabloid sensationalism, heal this year. Though the rift between Anselmo and Dime’s surviving brother Vinnie remains wide, we can be sure that Dime would enjoy seeing those who loved him most reunited in the spirit of his generous nature. In fact, it was only illness that prevented Anselmo from performing at Dimebash 2010, an all star tribute to the fallen guitar hero. In Rita’s forgiveness and Phil’s unwavering attempts at reconciliation, the gregarious and loving persona of Dime lives on.
2010 also marks the 20th anniversary of one of Dimebag’s signature performances, his work on the seminal “Cowboys from Hell” album. Though this was actually Pantera’s fifth record, it is regarded by fans as their official debut, and it was at this time that Dime’s untouchable sound, tone, and monumental southern fried wah pedal squeal were introduced to the world at large. His explosive and towering riffs were an extension of his larger-than-life personality, and there is no doubt that his fans will continue to remember him through immortal songs such as the album’s title track, the tune that would become the calling card of Pantera and the Pantera faithful alike, the soulful and mournful “Cemetery Gates,” and the almost tribal and unrepentantly heavy “Primal Concrete Sledge,” which amazingly was thrown together by Dime and his brother at the last minute during the “Cowboys” recording sessions when Dime heard Vinnie jamming on the intro drum beat in the studio, threw his guitar over his shoulder, and pounded out what would become one of Pantera’s concert staples on the spot.
Such was the level of heart behind Dime’s leads that Pantera fans from all corners of the globe can still hum his solos from these two-decade old tracks from memory. He was more than just a musician, but it’s as clear as a shot of Texas moonshine that music flowed from his fingertips and oozed from his pores like the cold sweat of a whisky hangover. So shed not a tear for Dimebag this year, but raise a glass and remind yourself of how he lived and what he stood for. As his friend and brother Phil Anselmo has often said, there will never be another like him. R.I.P. Dimebag Darrell Abbott. In the collective memories of the word’s metal family, you will always be that uncontainable force of nature that set the world on fire with the same unmatchable passion and drive that endeared you to millions who thought of you not as some distant and unreachable guitar god, but as a friend and brother in arms, even if we never had the pleasure of meeting you in person. Getcha’ pull!
Joe Henley is a freelance music journalist and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to pulling vocal duty in a death metal band, he maintains a website on the Taiwanese metal scene and writes regular features on the touring bands that come through Taipei for a local monthly music magazine.
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