Exclusive: Late Metallica Bassist Cliff Burton’s Father Discusses Cliff’s Self-Image, Metallica’s Ongoing Success, Royalties, and More


This week marked the thirtieth anniversary of one of the greatest losses in metal history, the untimely death of Cliff Burton. On the latest episode of The MetalSucks Podcast, we pay tribute to the fallen legend by talking to Metallica biographer Joel McIver and Ray Burton, Cliff’s father.

While Joel provided a ton of insight into Cliff’s life and talent, it should go without saying that our conversation with Ray is the far more emotional of the two. Here are some of the highlights from our discussion with Ray:

Regarding Cliff’s own attitude about his skills as a musician:


“Cliff knew he had talent, but he wasn’t cocky about it. But he felt the music that he was getting and playing with James and Kirk and Lars was pretty good, and he was quite satisfied with it… [but] he said that he felt that if he couldn’t make a living with Metallica, he had enough talent to be a studio musician. So that’s a lot of confidence in your own ability. But at the same time, I heard him say several times, ‘There are a hundred kids out there in garages that play the guitar as well as I can.’ That was, I think, a plus for Cliff — that kind of thinking toward yourself also helps in everyday life. You have that confidence about your own abilities, and Cliff had a degree of confidence. But as I say, he wasn’t cocky about it in any sense of the word.”

Regarding Metallica’s ongoing success since Cliff’s death:

“I admire James and Lars and Kirk for carrying on all of these years. They’ve stayed together and have done a very good job of entertaining… [and] the business is entertaining, and they have done an absolutely magnificent job.”

Regarding how, even in death, Cliff has been able to provide for his parents:

“The royalties have been coming my way for quite some times… at times I feel a little sad that [Cliff wasn’t able to enjoy] this wealth… [but] he could see things coming along… he felt that they were doing well… He told his mom and me, “I’m gonna buy you two a house when this thing gets going better.” So he had an idea that the band was going to be a success — and boy, was it ever.”

Other topics of discuss with Ray include Cliff’s childhood, the death of Cliff’s older brother when Cliff was thirteen, Cliff’s conflicts with Lars, and much, much more. Listen here. And make sure you find some time this week to listen to Cliff’s music and realize how advanced his songwriting and playing really was — the best way to honor the man is to remember his work!

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