Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen opens up about recovering from the car crash that took his arm in 1984

Allen joined the rock group when he was 15 and every member shot to fame over the next decade. However, on New Year’s Eve in 1984, he was driving his Corvette when he was involved in a horrible accident that left him without his left arm. 

Speaking to ABC News, Allen explained that, when the car flipped, he was thrown through the sunroof. However, before that happened, his seat belt came undone in the violent crash and his arm ended up getting stuck inside of it. As a result, when he was thrown, his left arm stayed behind. 

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Drummer Rick Allen performing on stage during a live concert appearance with Def Leppard on October 11, 1987

Drummer Rick Allen performing on stage during a live concert appearance with Def Leppard on October 11, 1987 (John Atashian/Getty Images)

Fortunately, Allen was determined to continue with his career and his bandmates stuck by him. After relearning to play the drums with one hand, aided by an electronic drum kit that allows foot pedals to do some of the work his left arm otherwise would have, the band went on to record their best-selling album “Hysteria,” which included the chart-topping hit “Love Bites.” 

ABC News’ Phil Lipof asked the drummer what he would tell himself if he could go back to his days in the hospital when he was wondering what his life would look like without his arm. 

Allen merely pointed to his heart and got emotional noting that it was the single most important thing to get him where he is today. He began to cry when Lipof noted that everyone he spoke with in preparation for their interview commented on his impressive heart.

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When Lipof asked if he would go back in time and prevent the accident from happening if he could, Allen struggled with the question quite a bit. 

“In many ways, I think it enabled me to grow in so many ways,” he explained. “It became a blessing, a responsibility, a responsibility to, you know, to other people. To myself… I think that has become a huge gift.” 

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Inductee Rick Allen of Def Leppard speaks onstage at the  2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Inductee Rick Allen of Def Leppard speaks onstage at the  2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

In addition to his music, Allen works a lot with charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project. In his spare time, he also paints, with some of his works going for tens of thousands of dollars. A main theme of his artwork appropriately is his right arm. 

“I nearly lost this one as well,” he concluded. “So, for me, it’s just a reminder of everything that I went through and everything that I put this poor old hand through on a daily basis.”

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