Today, Dimebag Darrell Abbott, the iconic guitarist who first wielded his mighty axe for Pantera and later, as a member of Damageplan, would have turned 43. Unfortunately, he was 38 when he died at the hands of a crazed gunman. Dimebag was murdered during a Damageplan set, on stage at the Alrosa Villa club in Columbus, Ohio. His killer? A disturbed fan named Nathan Gale, who killed two others and injured three before his deadly rampage came to an end; he was taken down by the first officer to respond to the scene, who ended Gale's life with a single shotgun blast.

A year after Dimebag's slaying, I was working at MTV News, where I wrote the site's now defunct Metal File column. Over the course of several months, I interviewed some 30 metal and hard rock artists about Dimebag, whose loss to the metal community's still being felt almost five years later. Metal's 9/11, if you will.

I asked these artists for their favorite memories of Dimebag Darrell, and they obliged. Not one of them had a bad thing to say about the shredder -- who was known as much for his music as he was for his love of 'black tooth grins.' It soon became apparent to me that Dime was perhaps the genre's most beloved guitarist, both from the standpoint of his fans and that of the musicians he's since inspired ... something that wasn't evident the one time I briefly met the guy.

On this, what would have been his 43rd birthday, I wanted to take a look back at my MTV News piece, and pull some of the better memories from it, as a tribute to the man we all still miss.

Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde: "Whenever you were around Dime, there was never a boring moment. He was the coolest guy on the planet. He was an even better person than he was a guitar player, if that's even possible. Whenever me and him would hook up, forget about it, bro. We'd always have to have a spare kidney, liver and pancreas on ice."

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger: "The last time I saw Dime, we were [in his] Escalade, and we're sitting there, talking for a bit. We were passing this bottle of Jack Daniel's back and forth. ... I tell him I love him and to be careful, and he tells me he loves me and to be careful. I gave him a big old hug and went back to my bus. ... That was the last time I saw him ... I miss him a lot."

Shadows Fall's Brian Fair: "Dime seemed to have a real problem with the clock on our tour bus. It all started with his tour manager trying to tell him it was time to leave ... as soon as he was told it was time to leave, he grabbed the clock off of the wall and screams at the top of his lungs, 'There is no time!' and he smashed his hand right through it. The clock was made of glass and metal, and shrapnel flew everywhere. He went through three clocks on our bus like that."

Machine Head's Robert Flynn: "I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go to the bathroom and I glance out the window: Dime's still awake. He's stripped down to his boxers and his shoes and he's got Rayna [Foss] of Coal Chamber with him. He's standing on this car, doing back-flips onto the car's roof...the next day, I wake up and ... find out he never went to bed. So I figured Pantera's set was going to be a catastrophe that night. ... But he went out there, in front of 12,000 people, and played a flawless set. He just wasn't human, man."

Korn's Reginald 'Fieldy' Arvizu: "I went to their house and it was right before he passed away, actually. And we threw a jam with him and Vinnie [Paul] in their little jam room in Vinnie's house, and we threw a big redneck barbecue. We jammed for like five hours."

Unearth's Ken Susi: "On the Headbangers Ball 2 Tour, I wandered into the Damageplan dressing room ... [and] Darrell grabbed me and sat me down. He handed me a bottle of Crown Royal and said, 'Gityerpull, son,' and we sat there and talked about life. ... I never met a more positive dude with a great outlook on life. That talk made me a better musician and a better person."

Killswitch Engage's Howard Jones: "He was just a good guy, and he created some songs and some albums that were instrumental in inspiring me and the rest of this band. 'Vulgar Display' was an album that changed me, in a lot of ways. He was a huge part of my life, whether he knew it or not."