Early Iron Maiden Drummer Clive Burr Dies at 56

Clive Burr Iron Maiden 1981 - P 2013
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Clive Burr Iron Maiden 1981 - P 2013

The musician, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, was in the band from 1979-82.

Clive Burr, former drummer for heavy metal band Iron Maiden, died in his sleep March 12. He was 56.

Burr had been battling poor health for years, according to the band’s official site, and had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In a statement on IronMaiden.com, former bandmate Steve Harris offered his condolences.

“This is terribly sad news,” he says. “Clive was a very old friend of all of us. He was a wonderful person and an amazing drummer who made a valuable contribution to Maiden in the early days when we were starting out."

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Born in 1957 in East Ham, London, Burr had been a member of rising band Samson before joining Maiden in 1979. He played on Maiden's first three studio albums -- 1980's Iron Maiden, 1981's Killers and 1982's The Number of the Beast -- giving life to tracks like “Wrathchild” and “Run to the Hills.” The latter, which opened with Burr's memorable drum riff and was fueled by his galloping beat, was the band's breakthrough single in the U.S. and U.K.

Number of the Beast was Maiden's first album with Bruce Dickinson at the helm and became first top 40 album on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 33 in 1982. It spent 65 weeks on the chart, and continues to be the band's longest-charting album. It contains the song "Gangland," Burr's lone songwriting contribution with the group.

After leaving Iron Maiden in 1982, Burr performed with various bands including Trust, Elixir and Praying Mantis before being diagnosed with MS in 1994.

“I kept dropping things,” Burr told Classic Rock Magazine in 2011. “I couldn’t grip properly. I could barely keep hold of my sticks.”

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After his diagnosis, Iron Maiden helped defray medical costs by forming the Clive Burr MS Trust Fund and performing various charity concerts, according to Rolling Stone. In the final years of Burr’s life, he was confined to a wheelchair. Despite these conditions, Dickinson pointed out Burr’s positive outlook on life.

“I first met Clive when he was leaving Samson and joining Iron Maiden,” he said. “He was a great guy and a man who really lived his life to the full. Even during the darkest days of his MS, Clive never lost his sense of humor or irreverence. This is a terribly sad day and all our thoughts are with Mimi and the family.”

Watch the "Run to the Hills" music video at Billboard.com.