One (Metallica song)

"One"
Metallica - One cover.jpg
Single by Metallica
from the album ...And Justice for All
B-side"The Prince" (7")
ReleasedJanuary 10, 1989 (1989-01-10)
Format
Recorded
GenreThrash metal
Length
  • 7:27 (album version)
  • 4:58 (radio edit)
LabelElektra
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Metallica singles chronology
"Eye of the Beholder"
(1988)
"One"
(1989)
"Enter Sandman"
(1991)
Music video
"One" on YouTube
Audio sample
"One"
Alternative cover
"One" (Live) cover
"One" (Live) cover

"One" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica.[1] It was released as the third and final single from their fourth studio album, ...And Justice for All (1988). Written by band members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, "One" is an anti-war song that portrays a World War I soldier who is severely wounded  —  arms and legs blown off by a landmine, blind and unable to speak or move  —  begging God to take his life as he feels constant pain. His only hope is to devise a way to communicate with the hospital staff. In the music video, he jolts in the hospital bed, spelling "Kill me" in Morse code.[2] Production of the song was done by the band alongside Flemming Rasmussen. The song was the band's first top 40 hit single in the U.S., reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also a number one hit in Finland.

A video for the song was introduced in January 1989 on MTV. Shot in black and white by director Michael Salomon, the video's story is intercut with scenes taken from the 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun. Due to routinely being required to pay royalty fees to continue showing the music video, Metallica bought the rights to the film. The video was ranked at number one on MTV soon after its introduction.[3]

Metallica performed "One" for the 31st Annual Grammy Awards show broadcast from Los Angeles in 1989. The next year, the song won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, the first ever win in that category.[3] The band also performed the song alongside pianist Lang Lang at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014. The song is one of the band's most popular pieces and has remained a live staple since the release of the album, making this the most played song from ...And Justice for All.

Recording and composition

"One" was written in November 1987 by Metallica's principal composers James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. The song was released in 1989 as the third and final single from the album. For the first 17 seconds of the song there are a series of sound effects with a battle theme, an artillery barrage and helicopter are heard and continues slightly over a clean tone guitar intro by Hetfield before Kirk Hammett comes in over the top with a clean-toned solo. Ulrich's drums come in and continues until each chorus, when the guitars become heavy and distorted before returning to clean. There is a second solo by Hammett halfway through the song, before lyrics cut out and the song gradually gets more heavy and distorted until the "machine gun" guitar build up (played alongside double bass drums) before the next, often highly praised, guitar solo by Hammett, and a final dual solo by Hammett and Hetfield. The song begins in 4/4 time, and later 3/4 as well as 2/4.

In 1991, James Hetfield told Guitar World that he wrote the song's opening B-G chord change (miscalling it a 'modulation') based on an idea prompted by the Venom song "Buried Alive" from their second studio album, Black Metal.

I had been fiddling around with that B-G modulation for a long time. The idea for the opening came from a Venom song called "Buried Alive". The kick drum machine-gun part near the end wasn't written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way. We started that album with Mike Clink as producer. He didn't work out so well, so we got Flemming to come over and save our asses.

The song starts off in a soft melodic setting, but it develops through multiple sections into heavier and faster speed metal sounds,[4] leading up to a technically complex tapping solo by Kirk Hammett,[5] and a dual guitar section by Hammett and James Hetfield.[1]

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