Six years later it's still hard to believe. As fans around the world gather to remember the 30th anniversary of ex-Beatle John Lennon's murder, a small but no less dedicated family of music fans will mark Wednesday's (December 8) anniversary of another shocking rock and roll death.
It was six years ago today that beloved Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, 38, was gunned down in Columbus, Ohio's Alrosa Villa rock club in front of 250 people by 25-year-old gunman Nathan Gale. As confusion reigned in the club, Gale jumped onstage at the beginning of a set by Abbott's then-new band, Damageplan, pumping several bullets at close range into the guitarist before opening fire on the crowd and killing three others. A police officer responding to the scene killed Gale a short time later with a single shotgun blast to the chest.
The metal world was stunned by the murder of one of its most beloved and larger-than-life figures by a deranged fan who seemed to hold a grudge about the breakup of pioneering speed metal act Pantera. Abbott's death, which took place on the anniversary of Lennon's assassination by a crazed fan, still lingers as one of the strangest incidents in rock in recent memory. A number of metal sites paused on Wednesday to pay homage to their fallen hero.
The Noisecreep blog noted that "his death still hurts for the majority of metal fans, his former bandmates and his brother even though over half a decade has passed since the incident. ... While most of the music world is reminiscing today about the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's also-senseless murder, the metal community is mourning the loss of one of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up an axe."
The site spoke to former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo about the murder earlier this year, and he said the memory still haunts him. "I will say that with each passing year, it gets harder and harder and harder. This year was really rough," he said of the work required to curate the reissue of the band's legendary Cowboys From Hell without Dimebag's help. "When I look around today and see what an impact that we made, and where heavy metal is at today, and I think of what could have been? What should have been? It's very hard. It's hard to come to grips with it."
The Metal Underground site also marked the solemn occasion. "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," read the site's remembrance. "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."
In keeping with Dimebag's wicked sense of humor, the Houston Press took the occasion to point out some eerie parallels between Abbott and Lennon's murders, like "both men were guitarists."
Over on the boards of the official Pantera site, some fans paused to pay tribute to their fallen idol. "I miss Dimebag," wrote Jyrki, a drummer from Finland. "Makes me sad that there's never going to be another Pantera record. I'm broken."
Do you have a favorite Dimebag memory? Share it below in the comments.