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Chuck Schuldiner

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Charles Michael "Chuck" Schuldiner (May 13, 1967 – December 13, 2001) was a Jewish American singer, songwriter, guitarist and musical genre innovator.

Schuldiner was the singer, songwriter, rhythm and lead guitarist of the band Death, which he founded in 1983, initially under the name Mantas. He is often referred to as "The Father of Death Metal",[1][2][3] and his obituary in the January 5, 2002 issue of the UK's Kerrang! magazine stated that "Chuck Schuldiner was one of the most significant figures in the history of metal."[4] Schuldiner himself was modest about his part in the history of death metal, noting 'I don’t think I should take the credits for this death metal stuff. I’m just a guy from a band, and I think Death is a metal band'."[2]


Early life

Chuck Schuldiner was born on May 13, 1967 on Long Island, New York to a Jewish father of Austrian descent and a mother from the American South, a convert to Judaism; both his parents were teachers. In 1968, his family moved to Florida. Chuck was the youngest of three children. He had an older brother named Frank and an older sister named Bethann.

Schuldiner started playing guitar at the age of 9. His 16 year old brother had just been killed in an accident and his parents bought him a guitar, thinking it would help with his grief. He took classical lessons for less than a year in which his teacher taught him "Mary had a Little Lamb", which he didn't like very much, and almost stopped completely, until his parents saw an electric guitar at a yard sale and bought it for him. The young Schuldiner immediately took to the instrument. After getting amps, he never stopped playing, writing and teaching himself. Schuldiner was known to spend the weekend in the garage or his room playing his guitar, but was limited to three hours on weekdays when school was in session. Schuldiner first played in public in his early teens.

Schuldiner was originally inspired by Iron Maiden, Kiss and Billy Idol, among others. He was particularly interested in the metal movement known as NWOBHM - New Wave of British Heavy Metal - and cited bands of that genre among his favorites. He frequently cited French band Sortilège as his personal favorite metal group[2]. Slayer, Possessed, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond and Metallica were later influences he would apply more to his own band. Later in his career, Schuldiner frequently cited progressive metal bands such as Watchtower and Queensrÿche as influences. Official Schuldiner website, Empty Words, quotes Chuck's mother making the claim that he enjoyed all forms of music except country and rap. He also apparently particularly enjoyed jazz and classical music in addition to metal and British alternative acts such as Lush.

Schuldiner performed well in school, however, he became bored with education and eventually dropped out. He later regretted this decision.[3].

Schuldiner was not afraid to take on controversial lyrical subjects such as the anti-drug sentiments of "Living Monstrosity" and abortion in "Altering the Future"[5].

Musical career

Schuldiner formed Death as Mantas in 1983. Original members were Schuldiner (guitar), Rick Rozz (guitar) and Kam Lee (drums and vocals). In January 1986, Schuldiner moved to Toronto and temporarily joined the Canadian band Slaughter[6]. However, he quickly returned to continue the formation of Death. Death underwent many lineup changes, however with Chris Reifert he eventually released his first Death album, titled Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. He continued with 1988's Leprosy with the line-up of former Mantas guitarist Rick Rozz and rhythm section Terry Butler on bass and Bill Andrews on drums, and 1990s Spiritual Healing, where guitarist James Murphy had replaced the fired Rozz. After Spiritual Healing, Schuldiner stopped working with full time band members and instead worked only with studio and live venue musicians due to bad relationships with Death's previous rhythm section and guitarists. This earned Schuldiner something of a 'perfectionist' reputation in the metal community. Schuldiner had also fired his manager Eric Greif but settled and re-hired him before the recording of his next, influential release[7][8]. Death's breakthrough album, Human saw the band evolving to a more technical and progressive style, in which Schuldiner displayed his guitar skills more than ever. He continued in this style (and continued the success of the band) with 1993's Individual Thought Patterns, 1995's Symbolic, and finally The Sound of Perseverance in 1998. He folded Death after this to form a new band called Control Denied, and released The Fragile Art of Existence in 1999. Schuldiner also played guitar in the "supergroup" Voodoocult on the album Jesus Killing Machine in 1994. Schuldiner was also asked to be one of the many guest vocalists on Dave Grohl's 2001 Probot project by Grohl himself. Grohl even campaigned to raise funds to help Schuldiner pay medical bills for the brain cancer that would eventually take his life. Schuldiner succumbed to the disease before any collaboration could happen. Grohl, in tears, in an interview over Schuldiner's death, said that "Chuck died for making the right decisions in life. That's just... that's just not fair."

Battle with cancer

In May 1999, Schuldiner experienced pain in his upper neck, which he initially thought was a pinched nerve. He consulted with a chiropractor followed by a massage therapist/acupuncturist who recommended an MRI Exam. He was correct about the pinched nerve; unfortunately, it was being caused by a tumor. On his birthday, May 13, 1999, Schuldiner was diagnosed with pontine glioma, a type of brain cancer that invades the brain stem, and immediately underwent radiation therapy.

In October 1999, Schuldiner’s family announced that the tumor had necrotized and that he was on the way to recovery. In January 2000, Schuldiner underwent surgery to remove what remained of his tumor. The operation was a success, however, the Schuldiner family was struggling financially. The total costs of the operations would come to $70,000, a price the Schuldiner family could not afford. Many fundraisers, auctions, and benefit concerts took place to help cover the costs. The money began to come in as the metal community, in total shock, realized that Schuldiner's life was in danger. The metal community and the Schuldiner family showed deep concern because Schuldiner could lose his life due to lack of funds. The doctors who removed his tumor called the original diagnosis of pontine glioma a misdiagnosis.

Schuldiner continued to work on his music, continuing his work with Control Denied. About two years after his original diagnosis, in May 2001, the cancer returned and Schuldiner fell ill again. He was originally denied surgery (which he needed immediately) due to lack of funds. A press release called for support from everyone, including fellow artists. Jane Schuldiner urged all who read the statements about Schuldiner and his illness to go out and get insurance, stating her frustration in the American system. Schuldiner had gotten medical insurance after his first surgery, but the insurer had refused to pay because the tumor existed before he had gotten the insurance. Many artists, including Kid Rock, Korn and Red Hot Chili Peppers, got together in Summer 2001 to auction off personal items with the funds assisting Schuldiner's medical expenses. This was covered by MTV[9]. Matt Heafy, vocalist and guitarist for Trivium has also stated that the band had played a benefit show for Schuldiner while he was in the hospital in their days as a local band.[10]. Schuldiner received a chemotherapy drug called vincristine to help with his therapy. Like most drugs used in the treatment of cancer, the side effects were harsh and weakened Chuck greatly. In late October/early November, Schuldiner became ill with pneumonia.

He died on December 13, 2001, at approximately 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He was buried in Tampa, Florida on December 18, 2001 and MTV reported that famed musicians including Mike Patton, Dimebag Darrell (who was killed almost three years later), Glen Benton, Ville Valo, Trey Azagthoth and Max Cavalera, along with all of the former and active members of Death, attended his funeral.


Schuldiner once described himself as "a lover of life", "friendship", and "animals."[11] "I would like to live forever, if it was possible", he once said in an interview. [12] He commonly spoke out against artists who were "out of control", garnering negative attention to the death metal scene. Chuck openly condemned and disavowed stereotypes of metal musicians as being harmful to animals, people, or being "anti-life".[13]

When asked about his opinions regarding an afterlife, Schludiner responded "I don't know", but elaborated that he believed "this is hell", and that demons are in people, as they "create evil." Although his parents are both Jewish, Schuldiner did not go through any formal religious training. In the documentary, "666 At Calling Death", he was asked whether Satanism was a part of his music. He replied, "Not at all. I really don't want to involve any type of religious theme in our music. I think that's more of a personal thing. Yeah, I'm not a Satanist and I definitely don't put that into our music. No purpose. I was really young when the band first started out. I was never really into writing Satanic lyrics at all, personally. We did write gore lyrics, but it was more like kind of tongue-in-cheek, horror-movie type level. Nothing like encouraging people to go out and hurt themselves or anything stupid like that. It's pure fantasy-movie type, scary stuff. And then, I just really got into writing about reality, which is what we all have to deal with."

Schuldiner designed the Death logo and its various incarnations during the length of his career. In 1991, before the release of Human, he cleaned up the logo taking out more intricate details and the "T" in the logo was swapped from an inverted cross to a more regular looking "T", one reason being to quash any implication of religion.[14]

Schuldiner was also openly against hard drugs; he is quoted as saying, “I’ve tripped several times. That’s all because I don’t like the hard drugs. And my only drugs are alcohol and grass.” [15]


  • 1987: Scream Bloody Gore
  • 1988: Leprosy
  • 1990: Spiritual Healing
  • 1991: Human
  • 1993: Individual Thought Patterns
  • 1995: Symbolic
  • 1998: The Sound of Perseverance
Control Denied
  • 1999: The Fragile Art of Existence
  • 2010: When Man And Machine Collide
Chuck Schuldiner
  • 2004: Zero Tolerance
With Voodoocult
  • 1994: Killer Patrol Single
  • 1994: Metallized Kids Single
  • 1994: Jesus Killing Machine Full-length


  1. allmusic ((( Death > Biography ))
  2. 2.0 2.1 Metal Rules Interview with Chuck Schuldiner
  3. The Best Of NAMM 2008: Jimmy Page, Satriani Models Among The Highlights | News @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com
  4. List of music magazine Schuldiner obituaries
  5. Metal Maniacs
  6. Krgin, Borivoj. Liner notes to Death's Scream Bloody Gore
  7. Thrash 'n Burn
  8. Empty Words
  9. MTV coverage
  10. [1]
  11. "Death (Video Essay)" on YouTube, (accessed August 31, 2009)
  12. "Death (Video Essay)" on YouTube, (accessed August 31, 2009)
  14. Death, Alters of Metal Interviews, (accessed August 26, 2008)
  15. Deep Look Inside, Spark Magazine, (accessed February 7, 2009)


  • The source for much of this material is, as well as Schuldiner's former manager and various online sources and articles.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Chuck Schuldiner. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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