Early Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Jack Sherman dies aged 64

Jack Sherman, former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, poses for a portrait 1998. (Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Jack Sherman, former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, poses for a portrait 1998. (Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Jack Sherman, who played on the pioneering funk-rock band’s self-titled debut album, has died at age 64, according to an announcement on the Peppers’ Instagram account.

“We of the RHCP family would like to wish Jack Sherman smooth sailing into the worlds beyond, for he has passed. Jack played on our debut album as well as our first tour of the USA,” the band’s statement read.

“He was a unique dude and we thank him for all times good, bad and in between. Peace on the boogie platform.” No cause of death was given.

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Sherman joined the Chili Peppers in 1983, after founding guitarist Hillel Slovak left to focus on his main band with Peppers drummer Jack Irons, What Is This?. Sherman and drummer Cliff Martinez were then recruited by core RHCP members Anthony Kiedis and Flea to replace Slovak and Irons for 1984’s Andy Gill-produced The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sherman co-wrote five of that album’s 11 tracks.

Sherman was fired from the Peppers after Slovak rejoined, but he still had co-writing credits on seven of the 14 songs on the band’s George Clinton-produced 1985 sophomore album, Freaky Styley. Sherman also provided backing vocals to two tracks on RHCP’s 1988 breakthrough LP, Mother’s Milk.

Despite Sherman’s notable contributions to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ discography, he was controversially not among the members inducted with the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Sherman spoke out about the snub at the time, telling Billboard that he was rejected when he appealed to his former bandmates asking to be included. (Several other guitarists who played with RHCP over the decades — including Dave Navarro, who played on the double-platinum One Hot Minute and was in the lineup for five years — were also not inducted.)

"It's really painful to see all this celebrating going on and be excluded," Sherman told Billboard at the time of the Rock Hall ceremony. "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 dishonoured. I'm being dishonoured, and it sucks." Current Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was the one RHCP member to mention Sherman (and Navarro) in a speech at the induction ceremony.

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Despite the Hall snub, Sherman’s tenure with RHCP holds a special place in the band’s legacy. Andy Gill told Billboard that Sherman was “significant to the band's history, very much part of getting the funk guitar in there,” though he acknowledged that “they just really rubbed each other up the wrong way.” In his 2004 autobiography, Scar Tissue, Kiedis said Sherman lacked "a punk-rock pedigree” and the band’s relationship with Sherman “wasn't meant to be," but also wrote, "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."

Along with his brief stint in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sherman played with John Hiatt, Bob Dylan, Tonio K, Bill Madden, George Clinton, Feargal Sharkey, and Gerry Goffin. He is the second member of the Chili Peppers to pass away, after Slovak’s fatal drug overdose in 1988.