Lead Vocalist of Metallica
“If I hadn't had music in my life, it's quite possible I'd be dead and I'd much rather be alive.” James Hetfield
James Hetfield is an American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter of the multiple Grammy Award winning heavy metal band Metallica, which he co-founded with drummer Lars Ulrich in October 1981. Metallica has released nine studio albums, four live albums, five EPs, one cover album and 46 singles and won nine Grammy Awards. In 2009, Hetfield was listed No. 8 in the Joel McIver book of “The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists” and ranked No. 24 on Hit Parader's list of the “100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time.”
Hetfield is of English, German, and Irish extraction. He is a skilled hunter and a member of The National Rifle Association. He is happily married to wife Francesca Hetfield and has three children.
In 2001, during the recording of “ St. Anger,” Hetfield went into rehab to address his alcohol addiction. He is now clean and sober.
Childhood and Family:
James Alan Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963, in Los Angeles, California, to a truck driver father and a light opera singer mother. His father abandoned the family when James was young, and his parents eventually divorced in 1976. Three years later, her mother passed away from cancer, and a then 16 year old James went on to live with his older half brother, David, from his mother's first marriage. James' father died later in late 1996, when Metallica was on Load tour. James has one younger sister.
James attended Downey High School during his freshman and sophomore years. He first took piano lessons at age 9 and went on to play the drums. By age 14, he had added guitar on his endeavors. James played in a few bands when he was a teenager. His musical influences included Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent and Deep Purple.
On August 17, 1997, James married Francesca Tomasi. The couple welcomed their first child, Cali Tee Hetfield, on June 13, 1998. Their second child, Castor Virgil Hetfield, was born on May 18, 2000 and their third child, Marcella Francesca Hetfield, followed on January 17, 2002. The family currently live in Marin County, California, north of San Francisco. James Hetfield is known with the nicknames Het, Jaymz, The Het, Papa Het, and Mighty Het (field).
Better than You
In 1981, James Hetfield noticed an advertisement placed by drummer Lars Ulrich in the Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler, which read “ Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden.” Five months after their first met, Metallica was officially founded in October 1981, with Hetfield on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and Ulrich on drums.
After moving to San Fransisco in 1983, the band, which also included bassist Cliff Burton and guitarist Dave Mustaine, made quite a buzz in the metal underground which eventually led to a record contract. Later that same year, Mustaine was fired because of his alcoholic tendencies and replaced by lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. Metallica's debut album, “Kill 'Em All,” was launched on July 25, 1983 through indie record label Megaforce Records in the United States and Music for Nations in Europe. It peaked at No. 120 on the Billboard 200 and sold 300,000 units upon its release. The album went on to achieve gold certification in 1989, platinum in 1991, double platinum in 1995 and triple platinum in 1999. “Kill 'Em All” produced such singles as “Whiplash,” “Jump in the Fire” and “Seek & Destroy,” but only the second single that charted, peaking at No. 30 on the New Zealand Singles Chart. Hetfield co-wrote and/or wrote 9 of 10 tracks on the album.
On July 27, 1984, Hetfield and his bandmates resurfaced with their sophomore effort, “Ride the Lightning,” which Metallica produced with Flemming Rasmussen and Mark Whitaker. The album reached No. 100 on the Billboard 200 and No. 87 on the UK Albums Chart. It was certified gold by the RIAA in November 1987 and has since gone 5x platinum in the United States. The album contained three singles: “Fade to Black,” which charted at No. 100 in Swiss, “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
In a September 1984 Metallica concert, the band attracted the attention of Elektra Records A&R director Michael Alago and co-founder of Q-Prime Management Cliff Burnstein. They quickly signed the band to Elektra Records and made the band a client of Q-Prime Management. The third studio album Master of Puppets” was released on March 3, 1986 via Elektra Records, marking the band's first major label release. It rose to No. 29 on the Billboard 200 and went gold in November 1986, making it
the band's first record to achieve gold certification. The album eventually was certified 6x platinum by the RIAA. Hetfield wrote all lyrics of the album's 8 tracks, including the singles “Master of Puppets” “Battery” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” Following the release of the album, Metallica embarked on a United States tour as supporting acts for Ozzy Osbourne. Due to a wrist injury after skateboarding down a hill, Hetfield was replaced by guitar technician John Marshall on rhythm guitar on the tour, but he continued performing vocals.
In September 1986, Metallica suffered a great lost with the death of bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a tragic bus accident near Dörarp, Sweden, during the European leg of the band's Damage, Inc. Tour. However, Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett suffered no serious injuries in the incident. The three remaining members decided to carry on, and hired bassist Jason Newsted as Burton's replacement. The fourth studio album “...And Justice for All,” the band's first record with their new bassist Newsted, was released on August 25, 1988 and marked the band's breakthrough album. It peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and was eventually certified 8x platinum by the RIAA. “...And Justice for All” was nominated for a 1989 Grammy in the category of Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. Written by Hetfield /Ulrich, the first single “Harvester of Sorrow” reached No. 20 in the UK, while the follow up single “Eye of the Beholder” peaked at No. charted at No. 27 in the UK. The band, however, did not score their first US Top 40 hit until the release of the third and final single “One,” which peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also charted on the UK singles chart at No. 13. “One” brought Metallica their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1990.
In 1990, Metallica covered Queen's song, “Stone Cold Crazy,” for the compilation album “Rubáiyát: Elektra's 40th Anniversary.” The covered version won a a 1991 Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
Hetfield and his bandmates experienced a huge success in 1991 with the eponymous album “Metallica,” which received critical acclaim and debuted at No. 1 in ten countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The album was eventually certified 15x platinum by the RIAA, thanks to such well known singles as “Enter Sandman,” “Don't Tread on Me,” “The Unforgiven,” “Nothing Else Matters,” “Wherever I May Roam” and “Sad but True.” “Metallica” won a 1992 Grammy for Best Metal Performance. The lead single “Enter Sandman,” with lyrics by Hetfield, reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went platinum in the US. The song's success propelled the band to worldwide popularity. The second single “The Unforgiven” reached No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart, while “Nothing Else Matters” reached No. 34 and No. 6 on the same charts, respectively. “Wherever I May Roam” and “Sad but True” peaked at No. 2 and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, respectively. Despite released only as a promo single in the US, “Don't Tread on Me” reached No. 21 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks.
Metallica resurfaced with a new studio album, “Load,” on June 4, 1996. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the position for four consecutive weeks. It has sold over 5 million copies in the US. “Load” spawned six singles: “Until It Sleeps,” which made the Top 10 on both the Billboard Hot 100 (#10) and the UK Singles Chart (#5) and was a chart topper on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, “Ain't My Bitch” (#15 US Main.), “Hero of the Day” (# 60 US Hot, #1 US Main.), “Mama Said” (#19 UK), “King Nothing” (#3 US Main) and “Bleeding Me” (#6 US Main.). The follow up “Reload” hit the music stores on November 18, 1997. The album, which was produced by Hetfield, Ulrich and Bob Rock, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and also became a chart topper in several other countries such as Swiss, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany and New Zealand. It has been certified 4x platinum by the RIAA. “Reload” generated four singles: “The Memory Remains” (#28 US Hot, #13 UK, #3 US Main), “The Unforgiven II” (#1 US Main., #59 US Hot, # 15 UK), “Better than You” (#7 US Main.) and “Fuel” (#31 UK). “Better than You” won a 1999 Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
In 2000, Metallica won a Grammy in the category of Best Hard Rock Performance for the cover version of “Whiskey in the Jar.” The song was included on the 1998 cover/compilation album “Garage Inc..” The following year, the band picked up an additional Grammy in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the instrumental song “The Call of Ktulu,” with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony.
Metallica did not return with a new studio album until 2003's “St. Anger,” which became the band's last album with Alektra Records and also the first with new bassist Robert Trujillo, who joined the band in February 2003. The album became the band's fourth No. 1 hit on the Billboard 200 and won a 2004 Grammy for Best Metal Performance. It produced four singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks with “St. Anger” (#2), “Frantic” (#21), “The Unnamed Feeling” (#28) and “Some Kind of Monster” (#19). “St. Anger” was certified double platinum by the RIAA.
Metallica's ninth studio album, “Death Magnetic” was released on September 12, 2008 through Warner Bros. Records. It received mostly positive reviews upon release and was the band's fifth consecutive studio album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making Metallica the first band ever to do so. The album won two Grammy Awards for Best Recording Package and Best Metal Performance (“My Apocalypse”) at the 51st Grammy Awards on February 8, 2009. It has been certified double platinum by the RIAA.
Grammy: Best Recording Package, “Death Magnetic,” 2009
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “My Apocalypse,” 2009
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “St. Anger,” 2004
Grammy: Best Rock Instrumental Performance, “The Call of Ktulu,” with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony, 2001
Grammy: Best Hard Rock Performance, “Whiskey in the Jar,” 2000
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “Better than You,” 1999
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “Metallica,” 1992
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “Stone Cold Crazy,” 1991
Grammy: Best Metal Performance, “One,” 1990