Dave Holland, Judas Priest‘s drummer during their commercial peak in the Eighties, died at the age of 69. He had been living in exile in A Fonsagrada, Spain after being convicted of the attempted rape of a 17-year-old boy and subsequently serving a sentence in prison. The Spanish newspaper El Progreso first reported that Holland had died at Hospital Universitario Lucus Augusti de Lugo on January 16th, but did not report a cause of death. Rolling Stone has confirmed Holland’s death.
“It is with regret that we hear of the passing of Dave Holland,” the band said in a statement. “Despite his actions since working with the band, his time with us was amongst the most productive and successful in the band’s career and Dave was an integral part of that and for that alone he will be missed.”
“It is with deep regret that I have to accept the sudden and unexpected news that Dave Holland has passed away,” former Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing said in a statement. “Dave was a solid friend in life and solid musician both on the stage and in the studio; I will cherish the many gigs we played together and the albums that we made and I will always be grateful to the indelible contribution that Dave gave to Judas Priest.”
Holland, who was born in Northampton, England on April 5th, 1948, joined the heavy-metal firebrands in 1979 following the departure of Priest’s Les Binks, who’d drummed for the group since 1977. With Judas Priest, he played on all of the band’s releases between 1980’s British Steel and 1988’s Ram It Down – including the hits “Breaking the Law,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” and “Heading Out to the Highway” – before his departure in 1989. In The Story of Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith, original Judas Priest singer Al Atkins said Holland left the band for two reasons: to tend to his sister, who had multiple sclerosis, and ailing mother and because the band reportedly never made him a full member.
Prior to Judas Priest, Holland played in a folk-rock group, Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, which scored a hit in the U.K. with the plinky, autoharp-tinged number “Mirror Mirror” in 1965. He later played with the hard-rock group Trapeze, which also featured future Deep Purple and Black Sabbath bassist and singer Glenn Hughes. He also drummed on Hughes’ 1977 solo album Play Me Out. After Priest, he recorded solo projects with Atkins (1998’s Victim of Changes), as well as Hughes and Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, though his work with the latter was scrubbed and re-recorded by another drummer due to Holland’s sex crime conviction.
In January 2004, Holland was convicted of the 2002 sexual assault of a 17-year-old drumming student with learning disabilities. The boy, who had occasionally spent the night at Holland’s house where he took the lessons, had detailed the abuse in a letter to his parents. Holland denied the charges, but a jury found him guilty of one count of attempted rape and five counts of indecent assault. Another man, 22-year-old Spiros Laouitaris, was cleared of four counts of indecent assault, according to The Associated Press. In addition to his prison sentence, Holland was ordered to pay £10,000 for the cost of the trial. Atkins reported in 2012 that Holland had been released from prison.
Judas Priest released the following statement at the time to the press (via The Story of Judas Priest): “We are as shocked as everyone by this news. However, we would like to point out that Scott Travis is Judas Priest’s drummer and has been since 1989. We haven’t had any contact with Dave Holland at all since we parted company with him over 15 years ago.”
In his autobiography, Iron Man, Iommi remembered his shock when he’d heard the news. “You could have knocked me over with a feather; I had no idea he was like that at all,” the guitarist wrote. “I remember Dave playing … one day and he brought this young lad. I never thought anything of it. He said, ‘This is so-and-so, I’m teaching him to play drums. He’s a student of mine.’ He was probably about 11 or 12 years old or so, maybe a bit older. But when I found out about all that, blimey. … We thought, we can’t release these [recordings] with Dave on them so I took his drum parts off [2004’s The 1996 DEP Sessions]. We brought in Jimmy Copley, a really good player who I knew from Paul Rodgers’ solo stuff, and he did all the drums at my house.”