He was being treated in a Los Angeles hospital where he passed away around 11 a.m. on May 2, 2013.
Here's what you need to know...
1. He Was Recovering from a Flesh-Eating Disease Caused by a Spider Bite
Hanneman suffered a devastating spider bite in 2011 that nearly claimed his life and almost required amputation of his arm. According to a statement on the Slayer website, he had made a courageous recovery, and the band and fans were anticipating his return. Here's the statement:
Slayer fans everywhere - it's time to let you know what is going on with our brother Jeff Hanneman.
As you know, Jeff was bitten by a spider more than a year ago, but what you may not have known was that for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn't know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It's been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he's had several painful skin grafts, he's been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm; but best of all, he's been playing guitar. We were all excited when he joined us onstage for the encore a year ago at The Big Four show at Coachella. Since then, we've given him all the time and support he's needed to continue his rehab so he can come back to the band fully recovered and able to deliver the kind of shows we all want him to. While Jeff's been doing some writing and has been coming to rehearsal over the past several weeks, he has decided he needs to take more time to continue his rehab. While we want him back onstage with the band, all of us support his decision. So, we're very grateful that Gary Holt will continue to fill in for Jeff, and will tour with us until Jeff completes his rehab and is ready to return. How long will that be? The best and most honest answer we can give you is 'as long as it takes.' We also wanted you to know that we've been doing some writing and recording for the next Slayer album - we've tracked a few songs, and will finish the album when we're off the road later this year. Gary will join us on tour in Europe and the UK in May and June, and then we'll all see you on this Summer's Mayhem Festival.
Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis following his ordeal, a flesh-eating disease known as NF. It infects the deeper layers of the skin, which allows it to spread easily throughout the body. This video describes the effect the disease can have.
WARNING! VERY GRAPHIC IMAGERY
2. Slayer Announced the News Today on Facebook
The news was broken through a press release issued by the band on their Facebook page:
3. He Was a Founding Member of Slayer
The band formed in 1981 in Southern California, with Hanneman and fellow guitarist Kerry King being the two founding members, Hanneman told rock station KNAC:
Kerry and I met-- I was hanging out with some friends who played… I don’t know what kind of music it was… more like Robin Trower? Bluesy kind of music; and Kerry for some reason was trying out for that band. Me and Kerry got to talking, and he and I picked up a guitar and we started playing with a drummer after the tryout session was over. We were playing Priest and Maiden songs with a drummer, and so Kerry and I started talking after that and Kerry was like, “Why don’t we start our OWN band?” [Laughs] and I was like, “…Fuck yeah!” [Laughs] Eventually—Dave [Lombardo] lived down the street from Kerry, and approached Kerry because he heard that he had guitars, then next thing you know Dave was in the band. Then Kerry said that he’d played in another band with this singer named Tom [Araya], and soon he was in the band. The rest is history.
4. He Was a Resident of Los Angeles
He lived in there with his wife Kathryn, the couple had no children. Hanneman is survived by his wife Kathy, his brothers Michael and Larry and his sister Kathy. Hanneman married in 1997, he had been together with Kathy since the 1980s. Though he was born in Oakland, California.
5. He Was a Recovering Cocaine Addict
Hanneman told Blabbermouth.net about his time as a coke and pill addict:
Well, me and Tom (Araya) and some of my friends, we used to really be into cocaine, and like one day Tom was dropping me off at home and I think it was 7 or 8 in the morning and I think it was after two days of staying up and he's driving and I'm shoving shit up his nose & I'm taking stuff and this can lead to only death or something, this is going too far. So I quit and he quit and I think he (Tom) just smokes pot now and I drink and that's about it. We quit because I was taking pills and doing all of that shit, it was just like, one day, you know what, it's enough!
He was still known as a heavy beer drinker, his favorite being Heineken. This was reflected in the design of his name on one of his guitars:
He said in an interview that he still did a "few shots here and there."
6. He Was Passionate About Nazi History
He had a passion of Nazi history, but repeatedly denied claims that he is a Nazi sympathizer. His interest was inspired by his father, who was a World War II vet. This was reflected in his music. Two of Hanneman's brothers were also Vietnam vets. Throughout his life he collected Nazi war memorabilia in a similar vein to fellow metal legend Lemmy of Motorhead, Hanneman says:
He’s a bit older than me so he started collecting a long time before I did, but he’s totally into it. When we toured with them we used to have discussions about our medals, stuff like that. It’s just --for both of us -- [the Germans] just had the coolest medals and some of the best weapons and developed all these new tactics that we still use -- our army -- uses today. And they were just ahead of their time, and it was just fascinating. Because I’m into war history anyway, like WWI and the Franco-Prussian War, all that other stuff. So it was cool talking to him...
...my father was in WWII, and I had brothers in Vietnam so it was always around the dinner table. There was always war talk -- I mean not a lot, they weren’t obsessed with war, a lot of the details they left out of it in front of the family; they didn’t get into gross shit or get all morbid or anything. But there was always-- like when I was a kid, there were all these war movies on TV, and my two older brothers used to build tanks and models, which I eventually got into. You know, building them up and spray painting ‘em and doing all that crap. And then one day my dad was just cleaning out his closet, and he dumped all these medals on me and goes, “You want these? I’m gonna throw ‘em out if you don’t.” I was like, “Whoa! Yeah!”
The Slayer song "Angel of Death" was about infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
7. Slayer Wasn't His Only Musical Project
He had a side-project band in 1984 called Pap Smear; they never recorded any material because legendary producer Rick Rubin talked him out of it. Rubin is quoted as telling Hanneman:
Ahhhh, don’t do it, man — this is the kind of thing that breaks bands up
He also toyed with another joke-music project with D.A.M.M (drunk drivers agent mad mothers), but Hanneman insisted it was a one-off.
Rubin worked with Slayer on much of their material.
8. He Was a Prolific Songwriter for the Band
He wrote the music for some of the band's most famous songs including "South of Heaven", "War Ensemble", "Raining Blood", "Angel of Death", "Mandatory Suicide", and "Seasons in the Abyss." It was often noted that Hanneman brought a "punk influence" to Slayer's sound. He cites some of his influences as The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag.
9. Is Was Speculated he Had Issues with Other Band Members
His last recording with Slayer was the album World Painted Blood in 2009. After Hanneman's flesh-eating-disease ordeal, Exodus guitarist Gary Holt joined up with Slayer, and Kerry King had said he would be open to Holt coming onboard with the band full-time, something Holt was reluctant to do. Holt's and Hanneman's roles in the band are discussed in this interview:
10. There Has Been an Outpouring of Emotion on Twitter
Rock legends and other celebrities have been tweeting their condolences:
Thank you Jeff Hanneman. youtube.com/watch?v=DgBFC1…
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) May 3, 2013
RIP brother. You will be missed. SLAYER Guitarist JEFF HANNEMAN Dead At 49 bit.ly/Yi7r5A
— Zakk Wylde (@ZakkWyldeBLS) May 2, 2013
Jeff Hanneman will always be a metal god. A true master, he gave energy and excitement to millions, and will continue to. #PartyForSlayer
— ANDREW WK (@AndrewWK) May 2, 2013
Rest In Peace Jeff Hanneman! A True Heavy Metal LEGEND! twitpic.com/cnp1b7
— Hatebreed (@hatebreed) May 2, 2013
— Jim Norton (@JimNorton) May 2, 2013
Jeff Hanneman of @slayer RIP. Wow. I'm so very soory for your loss Hanneman family.
— Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan) May 2, 2013