The news was confirmed on Facebook by Cliff’s sister Connie, who revealed that her father had died “last Wednesday.” No cause of death was specified, and Burton’s exact age has not been confirmed. He was reportedly 92 in July 2017, which if true would make him at least 94 at the time of his passing.
Last September, Ray Burton attended Metallica’s S&M2 concert with the San Francisco Symphony, where one of the highlights was Scott Pingel’s rendition of Cliff’s solo “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” with an upright bass. After the show, Ray met with Pingel.
“He told me he was weeping during my solo,” Pingel told us. “Of this whole experience, that was the most powerful, hearing it from the father [and] what it meant to him.”
Cliff Burton died on Sept. 27, 1986 in Sweden when the bus carrying the band, according to the driver, hit a patch of black ice and skidded off the road and flipped over. Cliff, who was asleep in the top bunk, was thrown through the window and the bus landed on top of him.
Over the next 30 years, Metallica rose to become one of the biggest bands in the world, which increased interest in the three albums they recorded in Cliff’s lifetime. The royalties provided his family with a steady income stream, which Ray believed validated the faith his son had in the band.
“He could see things coming along … he felt that they were doing well,” Ray said in 2016. “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.”
A year later, it was learned that Ray was donating those checks to fund a music scholarship for students at Cliff’s old high school in Castro Valley, Calif. “I think Cliff probably would have done that with his money,” Ray said, “because he was not against education by any means. He liked it very much.”
Although Ray preferred big band music to metal, he still attended Metallica’s concerts. “Music should be entertaining to you, and they certainly are,” he added. “James [Hetfield] does a fantastic job as a singer and the frontman. He’s just an absolute natural. I remember one time asking him if he was a cheerleader in high school. Got a big laugh, and gosh, he was anything but that.”
In 2009, the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Ray spoke at the ceremony on behalf of his son.
“I just want to thank the Hall of Fame selection committee for selecting these wonderful young men behind me. They’re a great group and the thing I’ve always liked about ’em is, you see them play in person and you just immediately get a big smile on your face. … It’s a degree of happiness that they have a great ability to perform that way. … But there is one person that I want to mention, a person that I think was Metallica’s and certainly Cliff Burton’s greatest fan. And that was Cliff’s mother Jan.”