Def Leppard drummer Rick “The Thunder God” Allen dropped by the Shannon in the Morning ‘Big Show’ today to talk about his upcoming art show appearance at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey on Saturday, January 13th — but the crew got to talking about so much more.
Rick, a world-renowned drummer since the early ’80s, rose to stardom after joining the iconic British rock group Def Leppard at the age of 15 in 1978, just before the band signed their first record deal. He was opening for AC/DC by his 16th birthday.
After losing his left arm in a car accident in 1984, Rick’s determination was unwavering, inspiring a whole generation of drummers and becoming, as singer Joe Elliott has said, “a better drummer than he was when he had two arms,” by employing electronic elements and a myriad of foot pedals on his drum set.
“When I finally came around in [the] hospital,” Rick says remembering back to that fateful day in 1984, “honestly, I thought it was all over. I thought that was it. I was 21.
“Just the encouragement I got from the guys in the band and my family and then hundreds of thousands of letters coming from all over the planet, I discovered the human spirit and that’s what really propelled me forward. I realized in that moment that ‘I can do this'”
An unintended positive from the situation came, as he explains, when he realized he was in a very unique position and there was room to celebrate it.
“One of the things that really helped me,” Rick explains, “was to stop comparing myself to how I used to be, and stop comparing myself to others, and finally get around to the idea of celebrating how unique this was, how unique this way of playing is. And at that point, there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. That’s when I realized, ‘I can do this,’ because nobody else can do this the way I do this.”
Rick’s story has inspired countless others who have found themselves in similar, life-changing situations and has been focusing his passion on helping veterans, especially wounded veterans.
Rick and his wife Lauren have founded a charity located in Malibu, CA called the Raven Drum Foundation which serves to educate, and empower veterans and people in crisis through healing arts programs, drum circle events, and collaborative partnerships.
Allen also created the One Hand Drum Company to help promote awareness for his Raven Drum Foundation, focusing on the concept of “StikRick,” a drawing of a one-armed drummer that Rick sometimes uses with his autograph, selling T-shirts, hats, and other merch along with the “Life Is Great!! Be A Rockstar!!” slogan.
These days Rick has focused his unending energy on his many art projects and is now taking some pieces on the road for fans to see — and purchase. Art, a passion of his since childhood, “is a reflection of the many experiences, perceptions, and dreams that have shaped me into the person I am today,” Rick says. “Each piece has a story and a connection to my life. From my roots in England, teen rock stardom, the traumatic car accident, moving to America, travels around the globe, my family and to my deep connection to wounded warriors and their struggle to heal—it’s all in these visual creations.”
You can catch the Rick Allen Art Show this Saturday, January 13th in Short Hills, NJ at the Short Hills Mall at the Wentworth Gallery beginning at 5PM and on Sunday, January 14th at the Wentworth Gallery at King of Prussia in King of Prussia, PA beginning at 1PM. Click here for details.
–Joe Cingrana/Shannon in the Morning