The music world lost a major talent on March 26, 2002, when Randy Castillo passed away. The drummer, who spent time as a member of Ozzy Osbourne's band and was also in Mötley Crüe, suffered complications related to a battle against cancer.

Born Dec. 8, 1950 in Albuquerque, N.M., Castillo was bitten by the musical bug at an early age, but didn't settle on the drums until — like countless future rock stars — he saw the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. By his late teens, Castillo was gigging heavily with a variety of bands, and he cut his first LP in 1980 as a member of the Offenders, a short-lived group featuring past and future members of Autograph and Badfinger.

The following year, Castillo moved to Los Angeles in search of his big break, spending time rooming with future Rick Springfield guitarist Tim Pierce before serving a short tenure touring with the Motels and joining up with USSA, another short-lived collection of all-star sidemen that included ex-Cheap Trick bassist Pete Comita and former Montrose singer Bob James.

Before long, Castillo had enough of a name — and enough experience — to land a gig drumming for Lita Ford, who hired him for her 1984 Dancin' on the Edge LP. That association brought him into contact with Mötley Crüe members Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx — an introduction that would prove fateful in more ways than one. In the short term, it led to a crucial tip: Ozzy Osbourne was looking for a new drummer, and Castillo's new pals were willing to make a recommendation.


Castillo ended up serving as a cornerstone of Osbourne's band for close to a decade, making his first appearance on 1986's The Ultimate Sin LP and sticking around through the tour following 1991's No More Tears — a series of engagements that produced the Live & Loud double-disc concert recording two years later.

After leaving Osbourne's employ, Castillo bounced around a handful of projects for a few years, contributing session drums to a number of tribute LPs issued by the Cleopatra label and returning to Osbourne's band for a brief second tour of duty in 1995. His free-agent status made him a natural fit when Lee left Mötley Crüe in 1999, and he joined the lineup in time to enter the studio and record their eighth LP, 2000's New Tattoo.

Unfortunately, Castillo wouldn't have much time to enjoy the new gig. Before Mötley Crüe started its tour in support of New Tattoo, the drummer started experiencing pain after a show with his side project Azul. He was admitted to the hospital, where doctors discovered Castillo was suffering from a serious ulcer that required surgery.

"[It] ate a hole through the lining of my stomach and once it opened up, all that acid in the tummy just pours into your lower intestines and wreaks havoc," Castillo later wrote. "My doctor said my ulcer was caused by a bacteria that is contagious called h-pylori. I thought it was my love of drink and good times that at least contributed, but no, it was a bug that apparently many people have."

Motley Crue headed out on tour with Hole drummer Samantha Maloney filling in for Castillo. While he recuperated following his ulcer surgery, however, his health woes got even worse. Initially ignoring a small lump under his jaw, Castillo sought medical attention after it started getting bigger — and was stunned to receive a cancer diagnosis.

"There is nothing like the wave of emotion that hits you when you get told: 'You have cancer.' Nothing can prepare you for the doom you feel inside upon hearing those words," Castillo said after undergoing surgery to remove a lump "the size of a lime" from under his right jawline. "I am currently getting radiation every day five days a week and chemotherapy once every three weeks for six months. ... Cancer is a bitch."

Motley Records
Motley Records

Castillo's form of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, is often treatable if detected in time — and after undergoing aggressive therapy, he believed he'd beaten the disease. But not long after being told he was in remission, Castillo's cancer returned. This time, there would be no happy ending. On March 26, 2002, Castillo succumbed to the disease.

"I am heartbroken about the passing of one of my dearest friends," Osbourne told Rolling Stone. "I will see you on the other side, Randy. I love you."

"He always had a smile and positive things to say about everything and everybody," Nikki Sixx added. "He was a great drummer, a great caring person and a very spiritual soul."

Only 51 at the time of his passing, Castillo left behind a musical legacy that, by all rights, should have had decades left to develop — and ample evidence of the talent that kept him consistently employed for years. Director Wynn Ponder sought to capture it in a documentary called The Life, Blood and Rhythm of Randy Castillo, which features narration from Lita Ford and has gone on to earn festival acclaim. Perhaps most importantly, Castillo left an urgent reminder of the importance of preventative care.

"I just want anybody out there to know that if you ever have the slightest inkling of a symptom, whether it be a lump or a sore anywhere on your body or anything that looks or feels suspicious, go get it checked out fast," Castillo earlier told Metal Sludge. "With cancer, time is of the essence. You could save yourself and all who care about you a shitload of grief by catching it early."

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