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The front man that now leads with a now calm voice and presence that inspires awe in others. Aggressive on the stage, he rules the microphone and writes solid riffs that just crunch. James' history paves the rocky course of aggression, alcoholism and a re-birth into a family man and solid source of leadership for the band as he lead Metallica into the 21st Century and their place in Rock 'n Roll History.

The Vitals:


  James Hetfield
  Birth Date:
  August 3, 1963
  Birth Place: Downey, California
  Personal: Married, 3 Children
  Physique: Blue eyes, blonde hair, 6'1"/1.85 meters tall
  Joined Metallica: Founding Member, October 28, 1981
  Instrument: Vocals, Guitar
  Nick Names: Het, Jaymz, The Het, Papa Het, Mighty Het
  Quirky Quote: "We didn't fuckin' set out to make history or whatever. F'ing shit happens!"

The Story:

James comes from a 4 child family (2 brothers Chris and Dave, and a sister Deanna), his father (Virgil) was a truck driver owning a trucking company (died in 1997) and his mother (Cynthia) was a light opera singer. His parents divorced when he was 14 and his mother died early of cancer because of her Christian Science religious beliefs. Due to his parents beliefs, James was never allowed to participate in school activities such as physical education and sex ed. He felt singled out at school, being treated like a “freak” by his classmates. It proved to be an important inspiration for the lyrics he writes for Metallica. At the age of 9, he took his first piano lessons, taking over his brother David’s drum kit shortly after, before he finally discovered his love for playing guitar at the age of 14. His brother influenced his musical tastes,  introducing him to  hard music like Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath.

In 1977 James formed his first band, Obsession, with the Veloz brothers on bass and drums and Jim Arnold on guitar. One year later, after moving to Brea, CA due to the death of his mother, James met Jim Mulligan and Hugh Tanner. His new band Phantom Lord was born with Tanner on guitar, Mulligan on drums and James singing and playing guitar. In 1979 James stopped playing guitar and Ron McGovney joined the band then renamed Leather Charm. Early in 1981 first Tanner, then Mulligan left the band. James was looking for a drummer and Tanner introduced him Lars. They jammed but James thought Lars was not good enough to be in a band with him. Later that year, in October, Lars contacted James and offered to help him record a track for the Metal Massacre compilation. James accepted and drew the logo, Metallica was born.


James, co-founder of the band, is the main songwriter in the band and along with Lars, is the main person in change of all things Metallica.  Hetfield is characterized as the heart and soul of Metallica, but he has also maintained a dictatorial control over the final product. Until the mid-1990s, he recorded all rhythm tracks, most harmony tracks, and the occasional solo (the first solos heard in "Master of Puppets" and "Orion," "To Live is to Die," and "Nothing Else Matters"), as well as writing the lyrics, vocal melodies, and co-arranging the songs with Ulrich.   Ironically, the voice of Metallica nearly was not a voice at all, simply because in the early days, Hetfield did not fancy being a lead vocalist. Very early in its career, Metallica experimented with a few different vocal/guitar configurations.  Not being satisfied with any of them, James took over as the vocalist of the band.

James is infamous for being an accident magnet, becoming injured from various hunting, fishing and sporting accidents. He had two metal plates, screws and 85 stitches from a compound fracture of both bones in his left forearm. During the Ozzie tour James was skateboarding and fell and broke his left wrist. The most notable accident occurred on stage at a gig in Montreal, Canada on August 8, 1992. The simple fact of being at the wrong place at the wrong time left him with severe second and third degree burns to the left side of his upper body due to a pyrotechnical accident during the opening of “Fade to Black”. James refused to quit and kept on touring with Metallica. Unable to play the guitar, he sang while John Marshall, from Thrash Band "Metal Church" and then Metallica roadie filling in on rhythm guitar.

Alcohol was a big part of James's life.  However it became such a problem that it hindered his musical career and his work with Metallica.  James entered rehab in 2001, during the recording of St. Anger, leaving the other two band members insecure and worried about the future of Metallica. He overcame his alcoholism by spending two months in rehab and 7 months away from Metallica with his family, before finally getting back into the studio to continue recording. Since then, he tries to spend more time with his family, saying this is the happiest time for him. James was honored in 2006 by The MapFund MusiCares Foundation, an organization which is dedicated to helping musicians through hard times of abuse and addiction.
Although James insists on not being that much of a great guitar player, he is known to be one of the best rhythm guitarists out there.



James is married to Francesca Tomasi, long time girlfriend and former Metallica costume designer. Their marriage took place on August 8, 1997 and they renewed Wedding Vows in the Carribean in 2004.  They have three children: Cali Tee (1998-06-13), Castor Virgil (1999-05-18) and Marcella Francesca (2002-01-17). In an interview, James stated that his wife had helped him to mature and learn to deal with his anger issues more constructively, explaining that after they met, his destructive tendencies embarrassed both of them. He is also sober and has been since undergoing a rehab program in 2002 (documented in the film Some Kind of Monster), maintaining total abstinence from alcohol.
On April 4, 2009, Hetfield, along with remaining Metallica members Ulrich, Hammett, Trujillo, as well as former bassist Newsted and the deceased Cliff Burton were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In an interview after their nomination, Hetfield commented that everyone who had appeared on an album with the band would be inducted. This excluded original guitarist Dave Mustaine and original bassist Ron McGovney, as both had appeared only on the band's early demo tapes. 

Other Facts:

Pre-Metallica Jobs: High school janitor, Caretaker, Sticker factory worker, and House Mover
Previous Bands: Obsession and Leather Charm
Musical Influences: Aerosmith and other bands such as Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy
Hobbies/Interests: hunting, snowboarding, street hockey, jet-skiing, collecting older guitars, sketching
Favorite bands: Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Discharge
Likes to drive: '55 Chevy BelAir, Chevy Blazer, Dodge Ram Pick-Up and Harley Davidson
Likes to eat: Mexican food, meat-n-potatoes, Bar-B-Que, Oysters
(Used to) Like to drink: Coors Light, Pacifico, Bombay Gin Martinis
Favorite sports teams: Oakland Raiders, San Jose Sharks, D.C. United
Favorite movies: Pulp Fiction, Vanishing Point, Easy Rider and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly