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Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries

Rick Allen, left, with Def Leppard
Rick Allen, left, with Def Leppard

Twenty-eight years ago this week (New Year's Eve), Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen became famous. Well, he was already famous, we guess, for being the drummer for one of the finest pop-metal bands of all time. But on December 31, 1984, Allen became even more famous for being pretty much the only pop-metal drummer in history with a single, solitary arm.

Rick Allen was born with two arms, you see. Back in '84, he was riding high -- a rich and desirable rock star with no reason to suspect he was not invincible. That illusion was shattered when Allen got caught up street racing on the back roads of Sheffield, England, in his Corvette.

Allen lost control of the car while racing an Alfa Romeo and was launched from the vehicle when it struck a stone wall going about ten trillion miles per hour. (Wear your seat belts, folks!) His left arm was severed in the accident, and although doctors were able to reattach it, the arm had to be removed again due to infection. For drummers, there aren't many more devastating injuries than that.

But of course, Rick Allen had no intention of giving up his passion and career. With the help of sophisticated electronic triggers and pedals, he learned to play with only one arm. It's one of the most - nah, fuck it, the most miraculous tale of recovery in rock and roll history.

It's not quite unique, however. Other rockers have beaten life- and career-threatening injuries and gone on to demolish audiences across the globe. Here are ten more of the most incredible recoveries in music history:

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries

10. Gloria Estefan Gloria Estefan isn't just the biggest Latin crossover star in pop history -- she's also the toughest. In 1990, Estefan was traveling on tour with her husband and son when her bus was involved in a head-on collision. Estefan's spine was broken in the accident, sending the diva to the ICU wondering if she'd ever walk again.

Miraculously, she did. Two titanium rods and a year of physical therapy later, Gloria made a full recovery and resumed her ten-month tour.

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries
Photo by Groovehouse

9. Dave Mustaine In 2002, during one of Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine's many visits to rehab over the years, the guitarist fell asleep in a chair with his arm draped over the back. If this is your preferred napping position, we suggest you knock it off immediately. Mustaine managed to compress and damage a radial nerve in his left arm, leaving him unable to even make a fist with his left hand.

Doctors didn't like his chances of ever playing that sick solo in "Holy Wars" again. Mustaine disbanded Megadeth and began making other plans for his life. Amazingly enough, though, Dave made a full recovery in record time, regaining his arm strength and "re-teaching" his left hand how to play in a matter of months. A new Megadeth was assembled, and Mustaine now shreds on.

8. Tony Iommi A crippling injury that should have derailed Tony Iommi's playing career permanently instead helped to create the sound of heavy metal guitar. Black Sabbath's iron man lost the tips of his left middle and ring finger to a stamping machine while working in one of Birmingham, England's many factories. It was his last day on the job.

Determined to make it out of the industrial blight, Iommi fashioned himself plastic caps for his fingers and re-learned to play using light-gauge banjo strings, down-tuned to make fretting easier. The thick, wailing sound that came out of Iommi's Gibson was pure evil, pushing his riffs into a new category of music that would soon be widely imitated worldwide.

 

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries

7. Travis Barker Surviving a fatal car crash is miraculous. Surviving a fatal plane crash is some kind of triple-lightning-strike hyper-miracle. Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker may have beaten the odds in 2008, but he was still critically injured when his plane went down after a gig in South Carolina. DJ AM was the only other survivor of a crash that killed four.

Barker sustained second- and third-degree burns on his lower body and torso, prompting him to break his vegan diet and start eating the good stuff in order to build protein and heal faster. The skinsman lost some tattoos in the ordeal, but made a full recovery. In fact, he was back in the studio only a month after the crash.

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries
Photo by Groovehouse

6. Ozzy Osbourne We're not sure whose bright idea it was to put Ozzy Osbourne on a four-wheeler, but the insipid plan had tragic consequences back in 2003. The Prince of Fucking Darkness was tooling around on the ATV on his Birmingham estate when -- what do you know! -- he flipped it, causing critical internal injuries when the vehicle landed on him.

Ozzy's wife Sharon told the press that her husband stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. The Ozzman had broken eight ribs, his collarbone and a vertebra. His lungs filled with blood as he was rushed to the hospital and placed on a ventilator.

The ultimate rock and roll survivor, Ozzy took the accident in stride, recovering from his injuries and likely enjoying his pain medication very much. Sharon had him back on the road in no time.

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries

5. Baroness The most recent horrific accident on our list belongs to Baroness, the Georgia alt-metal band that released the epically long double album Yellow & Green in 2012. The brakes failed on the group's bus near Bath, England, sending the vehicle plummeting down a viaduct. It was pretty spectacular: Guitarist/vocalist John Baizley later described ploughing through a guardrail and "20 or 30 trees" as the bus flew more than 30 feet off of the viaduct to the ground below.

While the band is still recovering -- Baizley's arm was rebuilt after being shattered in six places -- the singer vows that Baroness will return to the stage as soon as possible. "Baroness doesn't stop because we got hurt on the way to work," he says, making him sound like a justifiably stone-cold badass.

 

4. Sean Kingston Sean Kingston probably hasn't been back in the water since May 2010, when the "Fire Burning" singer nearly lost his life in a jetski accident. Kingston and a female passenger collided with the side of a bridge in Miami, with the singer suffering a torn aorta(!), broken jaw, fractured wrist and water in his lungs. He was in the intensive care unit for more than 10 days.

The 21-year-old pulled through, though, eventually making a full recovery. In something of a silver lining, the rehabilitation helped him lose 70 pounds. He also probably got rid of the jetski, which are always a terrible investment.

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries

3. Frank Zappa The Mothers thought Frank Zappa was dead after a psychotic fan pushed the guitar freak. Luckily, Zappa was only terribly injured. During a typically lengthy encore at London's Rainbow Theatre in December 1971, an audience member bum-rushed the stage and shoved Zappa off. He plummeted into the orchestra pit, splattering on the concrete below and suffering multiple bone fractures, head trauma and injuries to his back, leg and neck.

The singer even managed to survive a crushed larynx. (Those kung fu movies lied to us.) His voice dropped a third after he recovered, but he returned to the studio -- and the stage.

2. James Hetfield Metallica likes explosions onstage. That's a given. The pyrotechnic blasts were never bigger than on the band's co-headlining tour with Guns N' Roses in 1992. Singer James Hetfield found out just how big they were when he accidentally wandered into one during the song "Fade to Black" at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

Suddenly, it was Hetfield who was blackened. His trusty ESP guitar may have saved his life. It shielded him from part of the blast, which engulfed his left side. His hair caught fire instantly, and he suffered second- and third-degree burns to his hand, arm, eyebrows and face. Guns N' Roses wasn't prepared to follow that act, and the crowd rioted after Axl and co. turned in an abbreviated performance.

With the help of what we can assume was a great deal of alcohol, Hetfield was back onstage singing 17 days later.

 

Def Leppard's Rick Allen and 10 More Miraculous Rock Recoveries
Photo by Barry Sigman

1. Bret Michaels Ever wondered what was underneath Bret Michaels' bandana? In 2010, it turned out that it was hiding a pretty serious brain hemorrhage that nearly killed the poor guy. Suffering from what must have been a fairly awful headache, the Poison front man was rushed to the hospital in April of that year, where doctors discovered he was bleeding beneath the thin tissue covering his brain.

Anytime something fucks up in your brain, you're in deep shit. The singer was listed in critical condition, and had to be placed into a medically induced coma. Somehow, he pulled through, making a full recovery against all odds.



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