Music News

Rick Allen, Def Leppard's One-Armed Drummer, Also Tries Hand at Painting

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen will appear this weekend at his art exhibit at Wentworth Galleries in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Boca Raton.
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen will appear this weekend at his art exhibit at Wentworth Galleries in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Boca Raton. Photo by Wendy Rhodes
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen will host three exhibitions of his newest art and classic pieces at Wentworth Galleries in South Florida this weekend. All art is available for purchase and Allen will be there in person to meet and mingle with fans and art buyers.

The art tour will wrap up a few months before Allen and Def Leppard hit the road with Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on the Stadium Tour, which kicks off July 7 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

Allen might be best known as the drummer of one of the most beloved rock bands of the '80s and '90s, but he says music was not his first passion.

“I discovered the art before the music,” he says.

At 15, Allen joined Def Leppard and never looked back. Def Leppard became one of the most successful rock bands of all time, selling over 100 million albums and racking up hits such as “Foolin’,” “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak,” “Photograph,” “Love Bites,” and the ever-sexy “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
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A portrait of Janis Joplin is among the new additions to Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen's Legend Series on display at select Wentworth Galleries this weekend.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes
But a car crash almost brought Allen's career — and his life — to an end in 1984.

“As I rolled this frigging car, I guess the seatbelt took my arm and I went through the sunroof,” he says of the crash that occurred while trying to pass an aggressive driver on a winding country road near his hometown of Sheffield, England.

“The thing that kept me alive was the fact that I stayed conscious,” he says. “It stopped me from bleeding to death.”

Doctors reattached Allen’s arm but then had to amputate it when it became infected.

“I didn’t really want to be here, I just kind of wanted to retreat,” he says of succumbing to depression immediately following the accident. “I didn’t want to see anybody. I was very self-conscious.”

But then, an awakening of sorts — a realization of the power of the human spirit, he says.

“It just catapulted me into the next phase of my life, and I realized, I can do this,” he says.

And do it, he did. Allen continued drumming for Def Leppard with the help of an electronically-altered drum kit. In 2019, the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Not simply surviving, but thriving, Allen has spent much of the past eight years pouring his heart into his artwork.

“Explosions of emotion,” is how he describes it.

Allen says he draws from the joy and pain of life to create very personal, one-of-a-kind mixed media pieces. He creates art much like he drums — with one arm and an open heart.

“I don't want to compare myself to others,” he says. “I want to celebrate my uniqueness, and that’s really helped me.”
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Rick Allen's paintings are showcased in the Wentworth Gallery at Hard Rock Hollywood.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes
The current exhibition includes new additions like Janis Joplin and Tom Petty to his Legends portrait series, a new environmental series and classics like painted drums and statues.

Bold colors cut through common themes, like a handprint, which is prominent on numerous canvases.

“The handprint specifically relates to me because I have to rely on that for everything, so that’s become a thing really through necessity,” Allen says.

Another recurring image is that of a young girl on a swing, soaring into and out of various paintings.

“That’s my youngest daughter,” Allen says of the images of nine-year-old Josie. “She thinks that everybody paints, plays drums, sings, plays guitar, and dresses up in unicorn and fairy outfits.”

Allen is affable, light and positive, professing a deep love and admiration for his wife and two children.

“They need a medal for putting up with me,” he says, laughing.

Putting a positive spin on everything seems to come naturally these days for Allen, and it shows in his art.

“The butterflies, flowers — particularly the roses — are all the idea of that hidden gem and following your dreams,” he says.
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Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen will appear this weekend at select Wentworth Galleries on his art tour.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes
Allen prides himself on following his dreams and not giving up, but admits he struggled for the inner peace he has today.

His biggest regret?

“You would think it would be going through my accident and losing my arm, and that’s how I felt at first, but it actually became a blessing,” he says. “Just by design, it inspires other people.”

Today, looking back, Allen remembers not the horror, and not the pain, of the car accident, but the kindness of two strangers who came to his aid on a lonely road that New Year’s Eve over 35 years ago.

“We talk about those angels... there was an off duty cop, Roger, and a district nurse, Ilene, and they pulled up behind the accident and they basically saved my life,” he says with a gentle smile. “Then they became a couple. So, it was a beautiful love story.”

"Rick Allen: Art & Insight." 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, January 10, at Wentworth Gallery, 819 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; RSVP suggested to [email protected] or call 954-468-0685.

1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 11, at Wentworth Gallery, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 5804 Seminole Way, Suite 103, Hollywood. RSVP suggested to [email protected] or call 954-314-7210.

6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, January 11, at Wentworth Gallery, Town Center Mall, 6000 Glades Rd., Suite 1089, Boca Raton. RSVP suggested to [email protected] or call 561-338-0804.
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Wendy Rhodes is a lover of rock 'n' roll and all things vegan. She has witnessed a green flash, kissed a live shark, and stood atop an active volcano. She is always open to new story ideas.