Founding Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak — beloved by fans of the band’s rougher, funk-driven early records — died of a heroin overdose 25 years ago today in his native Los Angeles. Slovak performed on the band’s second and third albums, 1985’s Freaky Styley and 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. After a failed attempt to quit the drug during the band’s 1988 tour, he succumbed to his addiction alone in his Hollywood apartment — just as the band was inching towards mainstream stardom. He was soon replaced by on-and-off-again guitarist John Frusciante, then 18, who went on to perform on the band’s most critically and commercially successful LPs, including 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s Californication. “My Lovely Man”, from the former album, was written in tribute to Slovak.
“Hillel grew up loving rock and roll so much,” said Flea of his former bandmate and childhood friend on the occasion of the band’s 2011 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “He hasn’t been here for some time, but I know how much it would mean to him. It’s a powerful thing.”
Below, watch Hillel Slovak perform with the band in 1986 in St. Louis, as well as while recording “American Ghost Dance” with George Clinton in 1985.