The music industry has seen its share of artists who’ve left this world too soon. Celebrity deaths send shockwaves through the community no matter how they happen, but senseless tragedies stick with us. That’s the case with guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who rose to fame with the band Pantera and died doing what he loved best.
Dimebag Darrell co-founded Pantera with his brother
Dimebag Darrell was born Darrell Lance Abbott in 1966. His dad’s career as a country music producer served as a foundation for Darrell’s early interest in the craft, AllMusic reports.
He turned his attention to rock and guitar-playing at an early age, citing Kiss as a major influence. In the 1980s, Abbott — then known by the stage name Diamond Darrell — founded the metal band Pantera with his brother, Vincent Paul Abbott, aka Vinnie Paul, who played drums for the group.
By the early 1990s, they had found a sound all their own, “almost single-handedly demolishing any notion that hair metal, speed metal, power metal, et al., were anything but passé,” AllMusic explains.
Also by that point, Abbott had traded in his stage name — a nod to his flashier former style — for a moniker more befitting his new image. Dimebag Darrell was born.
When Pantera went on hiatus in the early 2000s, the Abbott brothers joined forces to create Damageplan.
How old was Dimebag Darrell when he died?
Tragedy struck at a Damageplan performance in Columbus, Ohio, in 2004. A Pantera-obsessed fan stormed the stage and shot Dimebag Darrell multiple times in the head.
The shooter also gunned down several others, including Damageplan’s head of security, who tackled the perpetrator; a club employee trying to restrain the gunman; and a 23-year-old fan attempting to resuscitate the injured.
A local police officer killed the shooter, 25-year-old former Marine Nathan Gale, only minutes after the attack. But the damage was already done.
Dimebag Darrell was pronounced dead at the scene. The three victims who attempted to help him also died.
“Gale was reportedly upset that Pantera had broken up … and may have blamed Abbott for the band’s acrimonious split,” Rolling Stone reported.
(Eerily, the murders came on the 24th anniversary of John Lennon’s death at the hands of an upset, delusional fan. In fact, the threat of stalkers and unstable fans has haunted many celebrities. Obsessed followers killed The Voice contestant Christine Gimmie and actor Rebecca Schaeffer.)
Abbott was “blindsided” by the attack because he was headbanging as he performed, hair in his face and enjoying his craft.
Dimebag Darrell was only 38 years old when he died.
The Pantera founder reportedly wanted to get the band back together
Ironically, considering his murderer’s anger over the band’s breakup, Dimebag Darrell had expressed interest in getting Pantera back together shortly before his death.
Videographer Daryl Arnberger, who worked with Abbott in both bands, told the Landry.Audio podcast that Abbott had said less than a month before his death that he would “do whatever it takes” to get Pantera back together, Louder reported.
“We’re gonna go out and do this [Damageplan] tour through December, and I’ll see you for Christmas and everything,” Arnberger recalled Abbott saying. “After that, we’re gonna have some new s**t going on. And it’s not gonna be this. Whatever it takes, we’re gonna get these guys back together and do it right.”
Abbott died during that very tour on December 8, 2004.