Clifford Lee Burton was the gifted bass guitarist for the American heavy metal band ‘Metallica,’ whose tragic death was a great loss to western music and music fans worldwide. Even in his youth, he demonstrated the potential to be a great musician. He initially studied classical piano but became drawn to rock music and began playing bass guitar both out of passion and as a tribute to his late brother. Even as a child, he possessed an innate musical taste and listened to music of all genres. His performances with Metallica, where he made an indelible impression as a bassist, reflect the influence of rock stars such as Phil Lynott, Geddy Lee, and Geezer Butler. He was daring and unconventional in his stage performances, energizing them both with his attire and musical rendering; dressed in bell bottoms, he captivated audiences with his head-banging mannerism and his blond hair waving in the air. He was a friendly, honest, practical person who freely expressed his opinions as an individual. It was tragic that the musical prodigy died in his prime.
Childhood & Adolescence
Clifford Lee “Cliff” Burton was born to Ray Burton and Jan Burton in Castro Valley, California. His father was a San Francisco Assistant Highway Engineer, and his mother was a special education teacher for disabled children.
Scott and Connie, who were his elders, were among his siblings. He began studying classical piano at the age of six.
When his brother died of a brain aneurysm, he made a vow to become the best bassist in his honor. He studied bass for two years and even outwitted his instructors.
He attended Earl Warren Junior High School and Castro Valley High School, where he graduated. He graduated from Castro Valley High School in 1980 with a strong foundation in music theory.
Career of Cliff
While attending Chabot Community College with Martin, he formed his second band, “Agents of Misfortune.” In 1981, their band was selected to compete in the “Battle of the Bands.”
In 1982, he became a member of the local band “Trauma” and recorded the song “Such a Shame.” The song achieved mainstream success and was included on Metal Blade’s “Metal Massacre II” album.
James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, who were about to form a heavy metal band, were impressed by his performance at the Whiskey A-Go-Go nightclub in Los Angeles. They invited him to become a bass player in their band.
Burton was initially unconvinced but expressed an interest in joining them if they could relocate their band to San Francisco. Metallica was formed as a result of his wish.
The band relocated to Old Bridge, New Jersey, and signed with Megaforce Records’ John Zazula. Burton’s solo single “Pulling Teeth” was included on the band’s debut album “Kill ‘Em All” in 1983.
Metallica released their second album, “Ride The Lightning,” in 1984. Burton contributed six songs to the album. He established his legacy with “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Call of Ktulu.”
Metallica’s growing popularity resulted in contract offers from major record labels. Metallica signed with Elektra and released “Master of Puppets” as their third album in 1986.
The album was a huge success and was hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time. Burton was at his best in “Orion” and his favorite song, “Master of Puppets.”
Metallica toured Europe in 1986 to promote their third album, “Master of Puppets.” They performed in Stockholm, Sweden on September 26 of that year.
Burton was outstanding in that performance. He substituted classical guitar for the bass and delivered an outstanding rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
That night, as the group traveled from Stockholm to Copenhagen, the bus slid off its tracks, crushing Burton beneath. Burton’s mortal remains were set on fire and his ashes scattered throughout Maxwell Ranch.
Significant Works of Cliff
Metallica’s debut album, “Kill ‘Em All,” was certified 3x platinum by the RIAA, with 3 million copies sold in the United States. Burton’s solo “Pulling Teeth” deserves primary credit.
Awards and Accomplishments
He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 alongside other Metallica band members. Ray Burton, his father, attended the induction ceremony.
In 2011, Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest bassist. This posthumous recognition establishes him as a virtuoso bassist two decades after his demise.
Personal History and Legacies
He was killed in a bus accident in Sweden on September 27, 1986, while on a Europe tour with his band.
He inherited his easygoing demeanor from his hippie parents. As a person and as a musician, he was unconventional.
He was extremely intelligent and was discovered to have outgrown even his music teachers. He practiced nearly four to six hours per day, even after achieving success as a bassist in Metallica.
A memorial to this bass maestro is erected at the site of his death. It bears his likeness and the inscription, “Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home.”
Metallica paid tribute to Burton with the documentary “Cliff ‘Em All,” a collection of videos featuring Burton’s moments with the band and other footage shot by fans and media professionals.
Estimated Net Worth
Cliff Burton was a wealthy American musician with a $1 million net worth at the time of his death. He was best known as the bassist for Metallica, a heavy metal band. Cliff died in a tour bus crash on September 27, 1986, at the age of 24.
Metallica’s founding bassist was a fan of “The Misfits.” He convinced his band to include two Misfits songs on their album “Master of Puppets,” “Die, Die My Darling” and “Last Caress/Green Hell.”
This American rock legend, who died in a bus accident in Sweden, played bass exclusively with his fingers, not a pick. Though he became a well-known bassist, he began his musical career by learning to play classical piano.