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Current Band Members: James Hetfield

James Hetfield is the unmistakeable leader of Metallica and one of the greatest front men of all time. He sings, plays rhythm guitar and is the main songwriter for the band as well as being a founding member and it is impossible to imagine Metallica without him. However when they were starting out he was by all accounts painfully shy and never intended to be the singer for the band. Hetfield was born in 1963 in Los Angeles, his father was a truck driver and his mother was a light opera singer and they were both devout Christian Scientists who rejected medical treatment. Hetfield took to music from an early age with piano lessons at the age of nine, before he graduated via the drums to the guitar. He loved rock music and his first band was called Obsession formed in his early teens. After his mother died of cancer the family moved to Brea in California and his next band was formed, this one was called Phantom Lord. After that he talked long time friend Ron McGovney into playing bass and formed Leather Charm but when the drummer left it led to the ad that Lars Ulrich would answer and the formation of Metallica. In the early years the band went through various line-ups and they tried different people out. For a while Hetfield decided he didn’t want to sing but when they failed to find a suitable replacement he stepped up his game and made the role his own. The early years were filled with youthful arguments and a struggle for cash as they recorded demos in Ron’s garage but over time they honed their craft and Ron was replaced by the hugely influential Cliff Burton. Hetfield was always the driving force in Metallica and he has remained determined and driven throughout his career. His difficult childhood, the religion and the death of his mother have all clearly influenced his lyrics and music. Most of the Metallica material is inspired by Hetfield although Burton was a huge influence on the band and Ulrich is clearly a senior voice who carries some weight too. Hetfield comes across as a humble and fairly unassuming sort of guy who is grateful for his success in stark contrast to the loudmouthed Ulrich. However the documentary Some Kind of Monster revealed a great deal about Hetfield’s problems with alcohol and his serious anger issues. Nowadays he has calmed down a great deal and enjoys spending more time with his wife Francesca and their three children Cali, Castor and Marcella. He has spent years on the road and been injured in the line of duty more than once probably most famously in 1992 when he was set on fire by a pyrotechnic effect gone wrong while on stage. Despite second and third degree burns he returned to the tour after a few days, an act which showed his dedication to the fans. The rest of the band have made of fun of Hetfield, jokingly calling him a redneck and his off stage interests do include hunting (he is a member of the NRA), watching American football, Hotrod races and working on cars and motorcycles. He also used to be a big skater and has broken his arm several times in skateboarding accidents. Despite reaching the age of 45 Hetfield shows no signs of slowing down and while he may have mellowed out off stage he still rocks on it.