James Hetfield, the riff miester and vocal powerhouse of the biggest band to ever exist, Metallica, is celebrating his birthday today. He has finally reached the very last year before hitting the big 50. At 49 years old, he has accomplished so much in his life time and has inspired millions of people to get into metal and to pick up a guitar. Metallica has gone out and conquered the world time and time again. Releasing 9 studio albums and winning 9 Grammy’s, Hetfield has also been ranked high in many lists throughout the years. According to Joel McIver’s book “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists” he was ranked at 8th place and in Hit Parader magazine he was #24 in the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time.
Metallica was the first band that got me hooked into metal around 1991 when I was just 6 years old. The mean vocals, thrashy guitar riffs and quick double bass patterns of “One” got stuck in my little brain and I just wanted to listen to more! Soon enough, MTV and the local rock station soon began playing endless amounts of singles from Metallica and my need to hear more and more was being fulfilled. With hits like Master of Puppets, Blackened, Enter Sandman and For Whom The Bell Tolls being played, how could I not love every second of what I was hearing. One of the main things I remember though was James’ voice, his voice sounded so perfect to me. All I ever heard was the voices of all of these hair bands with their ballads and screeching vocal styles. Hearing James scream “Off to never never land!!!!” in such a beastly manner just made my balls drop immediately, I wanted to do this. I wanted to be in that band. I wanted to be Metallica. It was mostly James’ work I was always attached too, sure the solo’s, drumming and bass guitar work was great too, but James’ riffs and voice just always stuck with me.
Growing up, I learned every lyric I could, even on the Load and Re-Load albums. I loved them, I was dirt poor and those albums saved my life. Load on cassette was the first album I ever owned. I played that damn thing constantly in my room off to the side of the house and did my homework and art non stop. While it was a bad time in my life, Metallica made it tons better. Learning every note and lyric on that album helped me escape and songs like “Outlaw Torn”, “The House Jack Built” and “Poor Twisted Me” helped a lot. Of course there was the overplayed singles on that album as well but the oddities that never received radio time were the personal favorites of mine.
I’ve always idolized James Hetfield. His guitar playing was outstanding and his vocals were powerful while still understanding every word he said. His ability to write some of the best acoustic licks ever and then slam on the gain and play some loud and fast riffs always blew my mind. He sang clearly, he screamed with pure emotion. The passion he had for his music and band was obvious to his fans and they worshipped and respected his work. He has motivated a countless amount of fans to pick up a guitar, to start their own band and to play from the heart. While I don’t listen to them as much as I use to, I still hold them at high regard and when a song comes on randomly; I’ll sing and scream right along with James.
Happy Birthday James Hetfield, you’re a living legend.
Now let’s enjoy some ‘tallica, shall we?