Clifford Lee Burton was born on February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, California, to Janet (Morgen) and Ray Herbert Burton. He had two siblings. His mother was from a German Jewish family, and his father was of British Isles descent.
As a youngster, Clifford always liked music, listening to genres such as blues, classical, country and jazz, and he even liked the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He loved all kinds of music, and when he attended college he became educated in music theory. At the age of six he learned to play his first instrument, the piano. When he became a teenager he learned to play the bass guitar and took lessons from September 1978 to January 1980. He had played in several bands before he joined a band that would later go on to become one of the most popular and successful bands of all time.
In 1982 he played at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and was spotted by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, who were forming a heavy metal band and were searching for a new bassist with creativity. The two had gone to the Whiskey A-Go-Go at the recommendation of Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records. Hetfield and Ulrich were greatly impressed with Burton’s bass playing and asked him to join their band, Metallica. At first Burton didn’t want to join Metallica, but agreed to join if the band was willing to relocate to San Francisco, which they did. Burton went on to perform on the band’s first three albums (“Kill ‘Em All”, “Ride The Lightning” and “Master of Puppets”), which all became hits, and with these three albums he instantly became a favorite musician amongst many music fans, with his impressive bass playing, powerful stage presence and very opinionated and honest personality. Things were looking bright for Burton but, sadly, his life was cut tragically short in 1986. After Metallica had finished touring with Ozzy Osbourne in 1985 they began touring in 1986. On the morning of September 27 the bus the band was touring in was driving from Stockholm, Sweden, to Copenhagen, Denmark, to perform some more gigs, and it went into a slide on some icy roads. Burton was thrown out of the bus’ window and the bus fell on its side and crushed him. His Metallica bandmates were devastated over Burton’s death, as were the band’s fans. Burton was a powerful force in Metallica and his loss is seen by many as one of the most tragic losses in the history of music, which it is, because Burton was extremely talented and helped to contribute to some of Metallica’s most successful songs. Not only that, but his live performances were also very powerful and he was very friendly and down-to-earth, very honest and opinionated and always willing to express his thoughts and feelings.
Metallica paid tribute to Burton by releasing the home video _Cliff ‘Em All (1987) (V)_ and by using several unused riffs and a poem of his on their song “To Live Is To Die”, which appeared on their acclaimed 1988 album “…And Justice For All”. Burton may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten, and he will always be remembered by both Metallica and their fans, as well as music fans in general, and his contributions to the music industry are some of the finest that were made.