James Hetfield

James Hetfield
James Hetfield 2017.jpg
Hetfield performing with Metallica in 2017
Background information
Birth nameJames Alan Hetfield
Born (1963-08-03) August 3, 1963 (age 56)
Downey, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1978–present
Associated acts

James Alan Hetfield (born August 3, 1963) is an American musician and songwriter best known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica. Hetfield is mainly known for his intricate rhythm playing, but occasionally performs lead guitar duties and solos, both live and in the studio. Hetfield co-founded Metallica in October 1981 after answering an advertisement by drummer Lars Ulrich in the Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler. Metallica has won nine Grammy Awards and released ten studio albums, three live albums, four extended plays and 24 singles.

In 2009, Hetfield was ranked at no. 8 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists[1] and no. 24 by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time. In Guitar World's poll, Hetfield was placed as the 19th greatest guitarist of all time, as well as being placed second (along with Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett) in The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists poll of the same magazine. Rolling Stone placed Hetfield as the 87th greatest guitarist of all time.

Early life

Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963[2] in Downey, California, the son of Cynthia Bassett (née Nourse), a light opera singer, and Virgil Lee Hetfield, a truck driver.[3] He is of English, German, Irish, and Scottish descent.[citation needed] He has two older half-brothers from his mother's first marriage and one younger sister. His parents divorced in 1976 when Hetfield was 13. They were very strict Christian Scientists, and in accordance with their beliefs, they strongly disapproved of medicine or any other medical treatment and remained loyal to their faith, even as Cynthia was dying from cancer. This upbringing became the inspiration for many of Hetfield's lyrics during his career with Metallica, most notably in the songs "Dyers Eve" and "The God That Failed" from ...And Justice for All and The Black Album respectively. Cynthia died of cancer in 1979 when Hetfield was 16 years old. After the death of his mother, Hetfield went to live with his older half-brother David. Virgil died in late 1996, during Metallica's Load tour.[4] Hetfield attended Downey High School for his freshman and sophomore years[5] and graduated from Brea Olinda High School in 1981.

Hetfield was nine years old when he first began piano lessons, after which he took on his half-brother David's drums and finally, at the age of 14, he began to play guitar with Robert Okner.[6] He was also in a few bands as a teenager – one being Leather Charm and another, Obsession. Hetfield identifies Aerosmith as having been his main musical influence as a child,[7] and has said they were the reason he wanted to play guitar.

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