Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Obituary

UG looks back at the life of the influential metal guitarist who died last night aged 49.

Ultimate Guitar

As previously reported, Slayer guitarist and co-founder Jeff Hanneman died yesterday on May 2 of liver failure, aged 49.

The Grammy-winning performer was one of the most influential in metal culture, and tributes from fans and musicians alike have been pouring in.

Jeff was born in 1964 and grew up in Long Beach, California in a military family who enjoyed war films and making models of tanks. His father was German, though Jeff maintains that he fought for the allies in World War II.

Little else is known about Jeff's childhood, but a turning point in his youth was when he met future Slayer co-founders Kerry King and Tom Araya in 1981. The pair jammed Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs and decided to start their own band, starting with a punk project called "Pap Smear" featuring drummer Dave Lombardo on drums, but future Slayer producer Rick Rubin warned them against continuing the project. Jeff agreed, and eventually used two songs from the project on Slayer's 1996 release "Undisputed Attitude."

The band morphed into what became Slayer, and Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel spotted them playing in California and signed them up to his new label.

By late 1984, Kerry King joined Dave Mustaine in Megadeth for s short period. Jeff was concerned that Slayer would need a new guitar player, but King returned after playing only five shows. Soon after they went with their friend Rick Rubin to his new Def Jam Records to record their defining work "Reign in Blood."

Slayer continued to record and tour new albums, and in 1997 Jeff married his wife Kathryn who had been a long-term love interest since the early 1980s. She would never join Jeff on tour, save for two occasions - but Jeff preferred it this way, because when he came home, "she was all brand new again."

Tragedy struck Jeff in 2011, when he contracted the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis which doctors believe was contracted from a spider bite. With regret, the band were forced to play the shows without him and continue to tour with Gary Holt from Exodus on guitar.

In 2012, the band decided to continue with plans to write a new album without Jeff, whose recovery was slow. It was presumed that Hanneman would eventually recover after therapy, and his fatal liver failure has not been officially linked to his long-term illness.

Jeff is survived by his wife Kathryn, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry.

Pay tribute to the life of this great man in the comments, and if there's a moment from his body of work that you want to share, please feel free to paste a YouTube link to the song.

50 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Im so bummed out.. Hopefully, if there's a good place after this life, hes having a good time jamming with Dimebag and catching up with all the legends. RIP Jeff Hanneman
    still its 2 day's ago, and i can't even realize that he passed away, just so suddenly, why... :'( Rest in Peace Jeff Hanneman...
    I firmly believe Slayer should call it a day now. It was looking bad without Jeff on a temporary basis, but he and Lombardo made Slayer great. They should disband as a mark of respect for JH - any new material just can't be Slayer as we know it. As someone on another thread said, Reign In Peace Jeff.
    While I would obviously prefer Hanneman and Lombardo to both be in the band, ultimately Slayer can do whatever they want with their career. Hanneman's death shouldn't be a call for them to disband as a "mark of respect." If anything, they should continue to tour and celebrate his music, when they're ready to do so. Although we all know that Gary can never replace Jeff, the band has sounded good for the last few years with him. As for Lombardo; that's a different story...
    Top comment from: "Gary Holt on Replacing Jeff Hanneman in Slayer: 'I'm Just Keeping His Seat Warm'" leony03 posted on Apr 01, 2013 07:46 am I would much rather he replaces Kerry King when Jeff returns. \ \ Words do not express.
    No one can replace Jeff. Jeff Hanneman, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine are three most important persons for thrash metal. Jeff's legacy will never be forgotten. R.I.P. Jeff.
    and Scott Ian
    Don't forget Paul Baloff!
    I still think those three guys I mentioned are most important, because they wrote most, if not all, the best songs for their bands. And their bands are most important thrash bands of all time. I think Anthrax is least popular of the big four. But don't get me wrong I love Anthrax. I also think Gary Holt is more important member of Exodus than Paul.
    This is one of those deaths that shakes everyone- Such a talent dying so young. Im not a Slayer fan, but this is extremely sad news. RIP Jeff Hanneman
    Lets hope this brings the band back together. RIP Jeff \m/
    Yeah bring Dave back, finish the new album using the material Jeff was working on, do one final world tour with Gary Holt, and call it quits. Slayer can end their career with respect.
    There is no material Jeff was working on. We will never hear his new music again. Fucking sad.
    What about the two new songs that were suppose to be on an EP before Mayhem Fest. last year? I thought those songs just had to be mixed and mastered. Either way its still tragic what happened.
    I guess Kerry wrote them. I read somewhere King said that there was no new music composed by Jeff.
    Yea it's a huge shame. Although the music he has released is always going to be some of the best there is. As Andrew W.K put it: "Jeff Hanneman will always be a metal god. A true master, he gave energy and excitement to millions, and will continue to."
    It's good to see the Metal and UG community come together on this sad news. (Metal is probably the tightest community in music genres) It wouldn't be right to release another album under the name Slayer without Jeff's input at least. I'm curious to see what the next steps are for the band in the upcoming weeks.
    The influence of this man on metal music is immeasurable. How many people picked up a guitar or got into metal because of him... RIP, man.
    Still, I can't believe it happened... I remember playing Raining Blood with my former band at the only show we've ever played. At first, I opposed the idea - but my band insisted and they did a good choice. I had a lot of fun back in these days. Rest in peace Jeff, say hello to heaven. And have fun with Dimebag, Ronnie James Dio, Chuck Schuldiner and all the rest of the metal gods.
    Fuck off spammer, this isn't the time or place for that bullshit. RIP Jeff
    Not trying to be THAT guy, especially in times like these, but these are spam bots. You're telling a computer program to **** off, in other words.
    Angel of Death is still one of my favorite metal songs ever as well as South of Heaven. The riffs are a great strength of Slayer and they sure knew how to pump them out. RIP.
    His German father who fought for the allies sounds badass.. Also, I didn't know KK was in Megadeth for a short while that's crazy. R.I.P Jeff.
    I was so depressed by this, I cried out for my mom. Not lying here. I got into Slayer when God Hates Us All came out, and then I started backtracking their music as a kid. Too bad I never got to see Slayer with Jeff, because I can only assume it would have been incredible. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman
    I was lucky enough to see Slayer in Toronto with my bro and a couple friends, on the Canadian carnage tour with Megadeth and Testament. When we got the email from ticketmaster that the show was postponed because Araya was to go through back surgery, we were so bummed, we got a new date, which was postponed again. at that point my friends sold their tickets, thinking our trip wasn't going to happen. third time was the charm, my friends were able to get tickets only a few days before the show, it was September, so the weather was awesome. enterprise **** us around when we tried to get the rental car, so it was a 4hour race down to Toronto, we got there and missed half of the testament set, we were not too impressed about that. we had general admission, the show was rocking, it was so surreal to me, seeing your idols in the flesh, ripping blazing solos, it was a memorable experience that was totally worth the wait.
    He'll be up there jamming with Chi Cheng and Clive Burr... shit year for metal deaths
    he will be missed. saw them with Judias priest at the la forum best concert ever because of the moss pits and the lights kept coming on after every song....
    I heard about this the day it happened and it saddened my next day very much. I brought my MP3 to work and listened to slayer while on break just in memory of this great metal god. May he continue to rock us to the fiery depths of hell where ever he is. though I'm not saying he went to hell but you know what i mean. R.I.P Mate!
    I was never really a big fan of Slayer, I always got my thrash kicks from Metallica and Megadeth early on in life, but to say that his guitar playing didn't influence me in some way, even if it was through other musicians who were directly influenced by his work, would be disrespecting a legendary guitarist and a talented, hard-working band. Even though I only like a couple of their songs, I too feel the ripple effect of his death and it saddens me. May his soul rest in peace.
    RIP Jeff... thank you for helping create the metal community into what it is today! Your music will live on and inspire. I will always regret not being able to see Slayer live in concert, now I will never get the chance to see the original line-up. My condolences to the Hanneman family.
    I've seen Slayer a few times, both with Lombardo and Bostaff. The last time I saw them was with Gary Holt filling in and while Gary f***ing killed, it was different without Jeff. With all the trouble brewing within Slayer right now, I don't know what they're gonna do from here on out. If they continue with Gary touring and recording, I'm sure it would still sound good. Let's face it, Holt kicks ass at what he does! However, without Jeff, it just won't ever truly be Slayer ever again! Reign In Blood Jeff! I know wherever you are, you've got Cliff, Ronnie, Dime, and the rest of the legends on that stage with you right now and you guys are just freaking nailin' it! Horns up for Jeff Hanneman! Metal has lost a true legend....again.
    I bet Hanneman is jamming in heaven with vocalist Paul Baloff, bassist Cliff Burton and drummer Gar Samuelson to form a ****in' great thrash group!
    "I bet Hanneman is jamming in heaven " uh. what? this is the same guy who said satan had his back after he recovered from the spider bite buddy.
    Still sad about this R.I.P. to a true underrated legend and one of the greatest and most influential ever in metal.
    Jeff inspired me to become the guitarist I am today. I still can't believe this has happened. He was a god amongst men. Rest In peace
    Absolute riff master,absolute thrash legend.He was never a drama queen (like many others) and he just kept giving us gems like "Angel of Death" and "South of Heaven".Jeff, we already miss you!
    His playing really got me into heavy metal, Show No Mercy will always be my favorite Slayer album. RIP Jeff.