From Drum Kit to Canvas

Def Leppard’s Rick Allen, musician, artist, photographer, and philanthropist

Sometimes we meet people in life who leave a lasting mark. Rick Allen, Def Leppard’s one-armed drummer known as “Thunder God”, is that for me and I am sure for millions of fans globally. Rick is an inspiration for his resiliency, creativity, kindness, and is an amazing person who is filled with passion for the arts and has a gratefulness for life. We can all take lessons from Rick on following your heart, overcoming catastrophes, and more. 

Our conversation started with…“Hi Ana, its Rick. I’m sorry I am a few minutes late to our call…but we have a new dog we got from a rescue, he’s a puppy and I’m watching him today.” Rick is so humble and grounded that his voice and genuine care for people embraces you like a warm blanket on a frigid day.

Rick started playing the drums at age 9. Why? His best friend John got a guitar as a gift from his parents, which led Rick to ask his parents for a drum kit. “They couldn’t afford it,” he says. “My parents gave in with one condition - that I had to work for it by doing chores around the house and take drum lessons. I was a bit of a daredevil as a kid, especially on my bicycle. I was quite headstrong. It’s all served me well.”

Rick’s passion for the arts at a young age was evident and he had his parents, Geoff and Kathleen’s 1,000% support! He was 14 when Kat read a story in the paper, “Leppard loses Skins”, for a band called Def Leppard that needed a new drummer. “Mum called the journalist…got the phone number and shortly after, we met with Steve Clark and Joe Elliot at a local bar,” he says. “I had to audition for the part. The original drummer, Tony Kenny, wanted to return. I joined the band on my 15th birthday…November 1978.  At age 16, I dropped out of school with my mom’s support…she believed in me.  I continued my education with private tutors on the road.”  Rick was 16 when Def Leppard opened for AC/DC at the Hammersmith. 

Career support was a family commitment. “My brother Robert was always there helping and got into the engineering side of the business,” he says. “Literally, from the age of 10 years old, his role was really to help me and be there for me. It was great.”  

On December 31st, 1984, Rick had a life changing event. He was in a car crash that caused his left arm to be severed. In spite of losing his arm, he continued playing the drums, and innovated a specially designed electronic drum kit. Talk about resiliency and determination for his craft at its best!  

From drums to canvas, Rick is as talented with a paint brush as he is with drum sticks. “Inspiration for my art comes from my heart...everything that I have experienced… not being afraid to be vulnerable. That’s where all of the good stuff comes out.”  Experiencing Rick Allen’s work in person at the Wentworth Gallery in Short Hills feels like his energy is coming through the canvas into you. Wentworth Gallery exclusively represents Rick Allen’s art.

His Legend series, like “Tom Petty” featured on the cover, is “an homage to musicians that have passed that I looked up to as a musician growing up.”  His Union Jack series uses the print of his hand. “It’s the idea of my right hand. It’s the one thing that allows me to be creative in so many ways. And London Underground was a part of my childhood.”

Inside scoop: “I’m back to abstract pieces,” says Rick. “You create pieces, you live with them for a while, and they reveal themselves to you. They evolve.”

Rick and his wife Lauren’s Raven Drum Foundation is a charity with a mission to serve, educate, and empower veterans and people in crisis. https://rickallen.com/

Advice on how to live your best life? “Be Authentic,” he says. “Try not to compare yourself to others. Don’t get bogged down in competition. We are all unique.” 



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