This past Saturday the 16th, I had the honor of photographing and meeting one of my musical icons, Rick Allen, drummer for Def Leppard. He was at the Wentworth Galleries on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale that afternoon, and at the Boca Raton location that evening.
The galleries were showcasing his latest collection “Angels and Icons”, as well as his “Art to Wear” collection of custom jewelry pieces. I have to tell you, the work was beautiful. His work is vibrant, colorful and while also rooted in Americana, symbolism and patriotic beauty. His work is mixed-media, with a lot of pieces being his photographs on canvas and completed with oils and acrylics.
You can see some of the Warhol influence on his “London Phone Booth” series, which caught my attention when I noticed one of the pieces had a David Bowie tribute in it (just coincidence that Bowie passed away last week, considering the piece was completed some time ago) nevertheless, it made me smile. The art collectors, fans of the band, and just passers by all came in to see his work, and he made time for everyone. His art is a release for him, and a form of therapy as well.
Back in the early 1980’s, Def Leppard was on track to be the biggest rock band in the world. Pyromania was released in 1983, and went on to sell over 10 million copies. The band was ready to take off, but tragically, on December 31st, 1984, Rick lost his left arm in a car crash.
For music fans of that era, including myself, everyone was devastated by the news. The sadness didn’t last long. Rick vowed to continue being the drummer for Def Leppard, and he had to basically re-teach himself how to play with both feet and one arm. As a drummer myself, to say I was blown away by his level of playing after the injury, is an understatement.
The band, NEVER sought to replace Rick, and Def Leppard continued. After several years of rehab, and revamping his drum kit, the band released Hysteria in 1987, which was a beast of an album. Having sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, it kicks as much ass today as it did when I first heard it in 1987.
The persistence Rick has shown, as an individual is commendable. His can-do attitude and gentle personality add to the beauty in everything he does. His art is a testament to that. Some of pieces include his right hand print on them. To me that showcases his strength, courage and determination that anything can be overcome. Another of Rick’s passions, is paying it forward, which he does through a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife Lauren Monroe, called Project Resiliency.
The organization was formed to help veterans and people in crisis. Jennifer Buzza who is the Deputy Director of Project-Resiliency, and helps Rick and Lauren on the day-to-day. Jennifer explained how the group is helping veterans, active duty military, and their families cope with the stress, depression and anxiety that they experience daily. The organization provides resources; information and healing tools that will help them triumph and improve their lives.
What else can you say about a man, who has triumphed emotionally, spiritually, physically, and continues to pay it forward. I was a big fan of Rick and his music before I met him, and after spending some time and having a conversation with him, I am an even bigger fan. Congratulations to Rick on a great art show, and a great life.
Def Leppard is on the high seas this weekend on their annual ‘Hysteria on the High Seas’ cruise out of Miami. Then, once they are back on land, they will kick off the next leg of their tour on the 29th at the BB&T center in Sunrise, with Tesla and Styx.