December 9, 2004
Dimebag Darrell, Self-Help Guru and Bringer of the Swing
Strange as it may sound, there are not many musicians who've played a bigger role in my life than Pantera.
For at least 10 years now, whenever an intimidating event was on the horizon (like a job interview or a first date), I've always prepared myself with the same ritual. Right before I leave the house I put on my headphones, blast the first three tracks of "Vulgar Display of Power," and then stomp on out there to seize the day.
Yesterday happened to be one of those days, so it certainly sucked to come home and find out my Life Goals Guru had gotten shot down on stage.
I don't know a lot about the space Pantera inhabited, and my impression is that more informed ears deem them mediocre and derivative. I can understand intellectually the arguments for Metallica's superiority, among others, but I've always enjoyed Pantera much more. I like rock best when it has that swing to it, that certain something that makes the head nod and the face scrunch up, and Pantera always gave me more of the swing.
It's the difference between Led Zeppelin and all the bands they begat, most of the younger guys never had the swing. I saw one of the Led Zep guys explaining this once, and he said the reason was simple: John Bonham learned how to play by listening to James Brown and Motown, while these younger guys only learned by listening to Led Zeppelin.
And that's what I'd always thought when I heard Pantera.. I know they're supposed to be closet klansmen, and though I've never seen it substantiated I always figured there was at least a germ of truth there (after all how many of us in America don't have a few of those germs?). But when I listen to them it's hard for me to believe they never had any Black music in their diet. Cuz how else do you explain that swing?