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Hillel Slovak (April 13, 1962–June 25, 1988) was an Israeli-American musician best known as the original guitarist and founding member of the Los Angelesmarker rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Prior to his death of a heroin overdose in 1988, Slovak recorded two albums with the band, Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987).


Early years

Slovak was born in Haifamarker, Israelmarker to Jewish parents who were survivors of the Holocaust. His mother was of Polish descent and his father of Yugoslavian descent. The family emigrated to the U.S.marker when Hillel was four. They settled in Queensmarker, New Yorkmarker, then in 1967 relocated to Southern California. Slovak attended Bancroft Jr. High School in Hollywoodmarker, where he met future bandmates Jack Irons and Michael "Flea" Balzary. The three then attended Fairfax High School. While at Fairfax, Slovak learned how to play guitar. He, Irons, and Balzary, whom he introduced to rock music, met future bandmate Anthony Kiedis. Slovak formed a band with Irons on drums and two other high school friends, Alain Johannes and Todd Strasman. They called their band Chain Reaction, then changed the name to Anthym after their first gig. Slovak became dissatisfied with Strasman's bass playing and eventually taught Balzary to play bass. Balzary quickly took over bass duties in Anthym.

After graduating from high school, the band changed their name to What Is This?. Balzary left Anthym around this time to accept an offer of playing bass in the prominent L.A. punk band Fear. What Is This? continued on and performed many shows along the Californiamarker coast.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

One night, Kiedis' friend Gary Allen suggested that Kiedis, Slovak, and Balzary form a "one-off" band and open for his own band. For the gig, they enlisted Irons as their drummer and wrote the song "Out in LA". They dubbed themselves "Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem". They were a hit with the club audience and the owner asked them to come back the next week.
The band changed their name to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kiedis began writing more lyrics. The lyrics would eventually become songs such as "Green Heaven" and "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes". Over the course of the next six months, the Red Hot Chili Peppers played many shows in L.A. clubs and became something of an underground hit. They scored a record deal with EMI only six months after the band was formed, and were set to record their first album. Balzary left Fear to pursue the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unfortunately, What Is This? had also gotten a record deal. Since Slovak considered the Chili Peppers to merely be a side project and not a serious commitment, he left them to concentrate on What Is This?

During the recording of the second What Is This? album, Slovak became frustrated with the band. He contacted Balzary about rejoining the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This came at an opportune time, as Kiedis and Balzary were both dissatisfied with Slovak's replacement, Jack Sherman. After the culmination of the promotional tour for their first album, Sherman was fired and Slovak rejoined the band.

Slovak returned to the Chili Peppers for their second and third albums, Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. He was the subject of the songs "Skinny Sweaty Man", "Me and My Friends", & "No Chump Love Sucker". He was nicknamed "Slim Bob Billy", "Slim", or "Huckleberry", and throughout the albums Kiedis calls him by these nicknames before he starts a guitar solo.


Slovak and Kiedis became addicted to heroin early in their careers. Deciding to give sobriety a chance, both Kiedis and Hillel stopped using prior to their European tour in support of The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. During the tour both Kiedis and Hillel experienced intense heroin withdrawal - Hillel seemingly much more unstable than Kiedis - and upon returning home they both resumed their addictions. Little is known about his life the weeks following the tour, aside from a phone call to his brother.

Slovak was found dead due to a Speedball overdose on June 25, 1988, shortly after the band returned from the European tour. He is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hillsmarker, Californiamarker.

His last recording, a cover version of the Jimi Hendrix song "Fire", would later appear in the Abbey Road EP and album Mothers Milk.


Slovak's work was one of the major contributing factors to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' early sound. He was also a huge influence on a young John Frusciante, who would later replace him as guitarist in the band. Frusciante based a lot of his playing style on Slovak's work. The songs "Knock Me Down" (from Mother's Milk) and "My Lovely Man" (from Blood Sugar Sex Magik) were written as tributes to Hillel.

In 1999, a book titled Behind the Sun: The Diary & Art of Hillel Slovak was published. The book was authored by Slovak's brother James Slovak and features writings from his brother's diaries, paintings, photos and hand written notes from Kiedis and Balzary.


With What Is This?

With Red Hot Chili Peppers


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