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James Hetfield

James Hetfield

Famous As: Musician, Songwriter

Who is James Hetfield?

James Alan Hetfield is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the co-founder, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and the main song-writer of the 9-times ‘Grammy Award’ winner heavy metal band, ‘Metallica.’ He was born and raised in California, US, in a strict Christian Science family. He joined hands with drummer Ulrich, and later founded the band, ‘Metallica.’ Making their beginning as thrash pioneers, the group went on to become one of the most commercially successful heavy metal bands. With his strong leadership, powerful vocal style, signature rhythm guitar-playing and skillful song-writing, Hetfield has etched a special place for himself and his band in the history of heavy metal music. He has played a major part in taking their group from being an underground roots band to one of the greatest metal bands in the history of music. ‘Metallica’ has released 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, 39 singles, and 41 music videos. They have sold over 145 million albums worldwide. He has been ranked as one of the top metal guitarists and metal vocalists of all time. Hetfield is married to Francesca Tomasi and the couple has three children.


Hetfield found a classified ad posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a Los Angeles local newspaper, ‘The Recycler.’ They both got together in 1981 to form ‘Metallica,’ a heavy metal band. They were joined by guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Cliff Burton. Mustaine’s unpredictable behavior and drinking created some issues during the initial years, so in 1983, he was replaced with lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. The band relocated from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Initially the group had to face rejections from major record labels because of their aggressive sound, so their managers decided to launch their own label. Their first album, ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983) reflected British metal styles of early 1980s. Their next album, ‘Ride the Lightning,’ included social and political themes while the third album, ‘Master of Puppets,’ (1985) was considered as a masterpiece by the critics. This album brought their music to more mainstream audience and it was ‘Metallica’s first album that was certified gold. It sold more than 3 million copies and included tracks ‘Battery,’ ‘Damage, Inc.’ among others.

While touring for the promotions of ‘Master of Puppets,’ their bus rolled over a patch of black ice near Stockholm, and Cliff Burton was thrown out of the window and was killed instantly. Hetfield was disturbed due to this sudden loss. Jason Newsted was later selected as the new bassist.

‘Metallica’s’ next album ‘…..And Justice for All’ (1988) included the track ‘One,’ which was their first music video and was well-received on MTV. The album made to number 6 on the ‘Billboard 200.’

With singles, including ‘The Unforgiven,’ ‘Enter Sandman,’ and ‘Sad, But True,’ their next album ‘Metallica,’ which was produced by Bob Rock, sold over 15 million copies and debuted at number 1 on ‘Billboard 200.’ The lyrics of the song, ‘The God That Failed,’ from this album was inspired from his mother’s faith in Christian Science and her death from cancer. The number, ‘Enter Sandman,’ spoke about the fears of his childhood. With this 1991 album, ‘Metallica,’ also commonly referred as ‘The Black Album,’ there was a change in the band’s musical direction.

While touring with ‘Guns ‘N Roses’ in August 1992, a pyrotechnics accident on stage at ‘Olympic Stadium,’ Montreal, erupted in a flame and Hetfield received second and third degree burns on his left side. But he returned to perform in 17 days, though he couldn’t play guitar till full recovery. (On other occasions, he had broken arm due to skateboarding.)

Their next two albums were ‘Load’ (1996) and ‘Reload’ (1997). The track, ‘The Memory Remains,’ from the album ‘Reload’ reflects Hetfield’s mastery over songwriting. These albums were followed by ‘S & M,’ (1999) and ‘St. Anger’ (2003).

In the meanwhile, the group experienced strains, especially between the two strong-willed co-founders of the band, Hetfield and Ulrich. Hetfield had differences with Jason Newsted as well and this culminated in anger outbursts and drinking binges. So, in 2002, Hetfield entered rehab for his drinking habits and remained away from the band for 7 months.

A documentary film, ‘Some Kind of Monster,’ about the relationships among the band members and the making of the album ‘St. Anger,’ was released in 2004. It was produced and directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

After the exit of Jason Newsted (in 2001), the band recruited Robert Trujillo (a bassist from Ozzi Osbourne’s group). ‘Death Magnetic,’ released on September 12, 2008, followed the record of ‘Metallica’s’ previous albums and attained number 1 on Billboard charts.

The band released a movie, ‘Metallica: Through the Never’ and its soundtrack in 2013. Their tenth studio album, ‘Hardwired …… To Self-Destruct’ was released in November 2016.


August 3, 1963
James Hetfield was born in Downey.


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