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Jack Sherman (1956–2020), former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist

by John Maxwell

Jack Sherman was a former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He played on their self-titled debut album in 1984.

His tumultuous tenure as a Chili Pepper

Sherman joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1983. He was the band’s second guitarist after the departure of founding member Hillel Slovak. Regarded as a talented and technically skilled guitarist, Sherman was a vital contributor in the group’s early days. He featured on their debut album and the band’s first national tour and TV appearances.

The early Red Hot Chili Peppers were known for outrageous on-stage antics and hard partying. Sherman lived a clean lifestyle and lacked a punk rock attitude. Tensions arose between him and founding members Anthony Kiedis and Flea, and Sherman was fired in 1985.

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Despite these personal clashes, his musical contributions continued to be included in early Chili Peppers releases. The band’s second album, “Freaky Styley” (1985), featured several songs he co-wrote. He later contributed some backing vocals to the group’s fourth album, “Mother’s Milk” (1989).

Hall of Fame snub

The group achieved mainstream success years after Sherman’s dismissal, topping charts and receiving widespread critical acclaim. In 2012 the Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the years the group had many guitarists, and ultimately three were chose to be inducted. Sherman was not on that list and did feel slighted by his exclusion.

“I’m not claiming that I’ve brought anything other to the band… but to have soldiered on under arduous conditions to try to make the thing work, and I think that’s what you do in a job, looking back. And that’s been dishonored. I’m being dishonored, and it sucks,” he told Billboard in 2012.

Anthony Keidis acknowledged that the band probably wouldn’t have survived without Sherman’s contributions in the early days in his autobiography, “God bless Jack, he did keep the band afloat for a year, and if he hadn’t, the years to follow probably wouldn’t have.”

Music after the Chili Peppers

Sherman had a long career recording with many notable musicians, including Bob Dylan, George Clinton, Tonio K., and Barry Goldberg.

Sherman on playing funk in the Chili Peppers

“You can take any kind of music and make it punk, energy-wise but funk is something you gotta know how to play.” —Sherman told MTV Cutting Edge in 1984

Tributes to Jack Sherman

Full obituary: Rolling Stone

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