Rick Allen of the band Def Leppard, who ate a lot of Krishna food and also taught me an important lesson in life
While on the subject of gods of rock, I thought I should mention Def Leppard, a well known stadium band who originally come from Sheffield in England.
Its many years ago now, but some enduring spiritual lessons were learned in my brief connection with them and I thought my readers might like to hear about it.
Def Leppard were already famous in the early 80s and are still going strong today with a huge fanbase. In contrast to ‘progressive’ rockers Yes, the subject of my previous blog, they were better known in America where they regularly played to tens of thousands.
Their producer at the time, and the musical genius responsible for their sound, was ‘Mutt’ Lange. Although he really knew how to produce the authentic sound of heavy metal, music perhaps more associated with aggression, Mutt was a vegetarian and a follower of the Radha Swami Satsang. He meditated and had a very disciplined lifestyle. Mutt had been responsible for the Boomtown Rats, and later went on to produce the Corrs and Shania Twain.
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On the morning of New Year’s Eve in 1984 the uniquely gifted drummer of Def Leppard, Richard Allen, was involved in a car crash which cost him his left arm. It was a great tragedy since he’d been drumming for the group since the age of seventeen and was still so young, with years of life ahead of him as a successful musician.
Mutt’s wife, Olga, was a regular visitor to the Hare Krishna temple at the time, and she suggested to her husband that some Krishna devotees cook for Richard while he was recuperating. My wife and I decided to go and met Richard that same day in Sheffield hospital.
He was an immediately likable chap and, it seemed to me, was managing to be quite stoical about his loss. The walls of his room were already decorated with personal cards, messages and pictures from musicians of every type, from Ozzy Osbourne through to Elton John. Fans were sending a sack of post every day.
Our job was simply to cook for him, and that we did every day for a month. First bringing meals to the hospital and then to his Sheffield home. On his birthday, our friend Ananda Vigraha cooked a large, elaborate cake in the shape of a drum kit. At the house we also had to fend off reporters who wanted to write sensational stories about him.
Although there wasn’t a great deal of time to discuss philosophy, and neither was it always appropriate given the circumstances, I think we managed to somehow offer our spiritual and practical support to Richard and his family, and they appreciated us being there. Certainly the prasadam meals seemed to be very welcome.
We talked with Richard of his musical career, and he seemed to indicate that somehow he would continue, although he wasn’t sure how.
After one month we left, and as the successive months went by, I came to learn that Richard – or ‘Rick’ as he was known in America – was indeed a young man made of very strong stuff. He was already practising beats with a combination of one hand and two feet, and had managed to produce drumming exactly as he had before. Engineers were working on different ways he could play, and how synthetic infill sounds could supplement his playing, by a device played with his feet.
Not only that, but his fellow musicians were standing by him completely, even though at times the future of the band looked to be in jeopardy. Not for them the casting aside of their brother when he could no longer play; they were staying together whatever might be te result.
I have always found Rick and the rest of the band a tremendous inspiration of how to carry on when all the odds are against you; of a band that stuck together when one of their members was in pain and worried about his future; and how, with such a selfless spirit, they remained successful – and playing together – more than twenty years later.
Recently, when I had cancer and was lying in hospital I thought of Rick and his determination to get better. It was a great help to me. Then, in one of those episodes you just know that was meant to happen, I learned that he was thinking of me.
While being interviewed by a newspaper in Canada, Rick told the story of how ‘this lovely Hare Krishna couple looked after me when I wasn’t well.’ And that’s not all. More than twenty years after we’d cooked for him and presented him with the Bhagavad-gita, Rick said that he and his wife Lauren had walked into a shop where the Hare Krishna mantra had been playing – and both felt the tears welling up in their eyes.
Rick and Lauren – when they are not filling stadiums – run an organisation called the Raven Drum Foundation. They teach the traditional practise of drumming in a circle for healing and especially like to extend themselves to disadvantaged children. They are both very spiritual people and Rick has taken part in chanting along with Krishna Das on one of his albums.
I would like to think that somehow we may have both helped each other as our paths ran together for a short while. So thank you Rick, for your inspiration and for your continued good works, and thank you to Krishna.