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8 Grammy ®
21 Grammy ®
1 Rock & Roll ®
Hall of Fame


With a fierce, unbending dedication to his art, and the uncanny ability to empathize with millions, vocalist and guitarist James Hetfield is an inspirational focal point for Metallica. Born to a truck driver and light opera singer in Los Angeles, the Hetfield family’s Christian Science beliefs played a large part in James’ early life, proving a powerful catalyst for many of Hetfield’s early lyrics.

James was nine years old when he first took piano lessons, before taking on his brother David’s drums and finally picking up a guitar in his pre-teens. Fueled by the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy, James quickly set about the task of channeling his creativity and angst in his first band, Obsession. Phantom Lord and Leather Charm were further stepping stones (James’ pal Hugh Tanner playing guitar in both) with Ron McGovney being convinced to play bass in …Charm. Soon the band was forced to call it quits, Tanner departing, but not before introducing James to Lars Ulrich. Needless to say, those two would go on to form Metallica. Tentative in his early days at the mic (there had been talk of Armored Saint’s John Bush coming in as the singer), James settled into his stride between Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets, banishing all thoughts of anyone else as front man, and helping propel the band to international stardom. The path has not been without its trials and tribulations. He has been physically “broken, beat and scarred” during his career, from breaking an arm (twice!) in 1986 and 1987 to surviving a full-flame pyro immersion in 1992… none of which derailed him for too long. And in 2001, James found himself in need of a self-imposed lay-off from Metallica, going to rehab and engaging in some core personal developments that allowed him to return stronger, clearer and fitter than ever.

Along with Lars, James is the main songwriter in Metallica, co-creating the framework and structure for most Metalli-material. He is also responsible for all lyrics, many of which touch on personal feelings and struggles over the decades, and which have seen him find empathy with millions of fans. When he’s not writing, singing or playing, James enjoys spending time with his wife Francesca and their three children Cali, Castor and Marcella. James also continues to enjoy his classic car collection, a variety of outdoor activities, watching all manner of Bay Area sports teams from his favorite Oakland Raiders to the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Sharks and collecting older guitars (particularly those from 1963). James also likes to get grimy in his own “shop” on various projects and he continues to enjoy drawing and sketching, still penning some of the logos and t-shirt designs fans enjoy today.

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