The Tragic End Of Steve Clark From Def Leppard

Steve Clark joined the band more than two decades after Def Leppard was formed in 1977 by Rick Savage, Tony Kenning, and Pete Wills. He became their lead guitarist following a successful audition during which he played Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ without accompaniment. Clark wrote or co-wrote more than %90 of the band’s songs throughout his career with the band.

Due to his talent in coming up with unique guitar riffs, he was nicknamed ‘The Riffmaster’ within the band. Although he contributed to the group’s success considerably, the guitarist’s involvement in their music gradually lessened due to his alcohol and drug addiction. His last contribution to Def Leppard was in the demo recordings for the band’s 1995 single ‘When Love & Hate Collide.’ Soon after that, the guitarist sadly passed away.

Why Did Steve Clark Pass Away?

Although Steve Clark’s name appears on the 1992 ‘Adrenalize’ album’s songwriting credits, he didn’t contribute much to the recordings. The band just used a few guitar riffs from Clark, and his only role in the studio was approving the songs by referring to them as ‘cool.’

Back at that time, Steve Clark struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Due to that, he was constantly in and out of rehabilitation. This substance abuse affected his involvement in Def Leppard’s recording sessions, and the band wrote the song named ‘White Lightning’ to describe the harmful effects of Clark’s addictions.

Just days before his passing, Clark appeared in the recording sessions of ‘When Love & Hate Collide.’ The demo of this song featured the final solo the guitarist ever performed. Sadly, on January 8, 1991, Clark died from poisoning by alcohol and a mix of prescription drugs in his London home. At that time, he was granted a six-month off to recover, but it seems this was a vain effort.

The remaining Def Leppard members decided to move on after Steve Clark’s death. They then recorded ‘Adrenalize’ as a four-piece with Phil Collen playing Clark’s parts by mimicking his style. ‘Adrenalize’ was then released on March 31, 1992, and they dedicated ‘White Lightning’ to Clark’s memory.

You can listen to Def Leppard’s ‘White Lightning’ below.