Today (Feb. 10) would have been the 50th birthday of former Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, had his life not ended far too early. Burton performed on the band’s first three classic studio albums, and his influence is still felt strongly in the worlds of rock, thrash and metal.

Cliff Burton was born on Feb 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, Calif. and began playing bass in his early teens. He joined up with Metallica in 1982 and immediately started turning the heads of fellow musicians. He had a vibe about him that was both aggressive yet mellow as can be at the same time. Cliff played on the band’s early demos as well as those first three records (‘Kill ‘Em All,’ ‘Ride The Lightning,’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’) and assorted b-sides.

Burton was to many, the heart and soul of Metallica. His bass playing was more than just the low tone anchor of the band, it was a world unto itself. Aggressive as can be, yet highly melodic as well. His bass solos are legendary amongst fans and we must say, over all these years, we can’t remember ever hearing anyone have anything but nice things to say about the man.

On September 27, 1986, Cliff was killed when the band’s bus over turned while on a European tour. Though the band would pick up and carry on, something more than just a bass player was lost that day. Cliff’s memory still rides with the band to this day. In fact, the group named their just-announced summer 2012 music festival ‘Orion‘ in honor of one of his signature songs.

Watch Cliff’s Bass Solo ‘(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth’

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