Former Diamond Head, UFO and Wishbone Ash drummer Robbie France passed away on Saturday (Jan. 14) at age 53. France was only with the UK metal band for a short time, but his work with them was crucial to the development of one of the groups Metallica has frequently cited as an important influence on their music.

France was born in England but moved to Australia at age 11. There he studied at the National Academy of Rudimentary Drummers and eventually became a music teacher at the Australian Academy of Music.

After moving back to the UK in 1982 he joined up with Diamond Head during the famed ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ era, playing the legendary Monsters Of Rock/Castle Donnington festival alongside Dio, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake and  ZZ Top.  Diamond Head ultimately proved to be a commercial flop but were very influential on many young metal bands, most famously Metallica who covered a handful of Diamond Head songs including ‘Am I Evil?’, ‘The Prince’ and ‘Helpless’.

Robbie briefly played with UFO, replacing Andy Parker, but left the band after only a year. Throughout his career, he remained a highly respected musician, playing with a wide variety of bands including Wishbone Ash, Alphaville and Skunk Anansie.

A renaissance man of sorts, aside from playing, France continued pursuing his interest in teaching music, wrote a regular column for the popular British drummer’s magazine Rhythm, and after moving to Spain in the late ’90s, hosting a radio show. During his last years he even found time to write a novel, ‘Six Degrees South,’ which was published last December.

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