-----James Alan Hetfield was born August 3, 1963 in Southern California. His mother, Cynthia, was a light opera singer.
Hetfield was nine years old when he first began piano lessons, after which he took on his brother David's drums and finally, at the age of fourteen, he began to play guitar. He also was in a few bands as a teenager – one was called Leather Charm and another, Obsession.
Hetfield co-founded Metallica in October 1981 after
answering a classified advertisement by drummer Lars Ulrich in the Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler. Ultimately, the band's fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship placed them as one of the founding "big four" of thrash metal alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax.
Since 2003, the line-up features rhythm guitarist and vocalist Hetfield, drummer Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Previous members of the band are lead guitarist Dave Mustaine (who went on to found Megadeth), and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted. The band also had a long collaboration with producer Bob Rock, who produced all of its albums from 1990 to 2003 and served as a temporary bassist.
The band earned a growing fan-base in the underground music community and critical acclaim with its first four albums, with their third, Master of Puppets (1986), described as one of the most influential and "heavy" thrash metal albums. Metallica achieved substantial commercial success with their self-titled fifth album (also known as The Black Album), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. With this release the band expanded its musical direction resulting in an album that appealed to a more mainstream audience.
In 2000, Metallica was among a number of artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band's copyright-protected material for free without any band member's consent.
Until the mid-1990s, Hetfield recorded all rhythm tracks and most harmony tracks. Since the recording of Load, Hammett is recording rhythm guitars as well.
Hetfield occasionally plays guitar solos on songs such as "Nothing Else Matters," "My Friend of Misery," the outro solo on "The Outlaw Torn," the second solo on "To Live Is to Die," the first solo on "Suicide and Redemption," the first interlude solo on "Master of Puppets," the harmonized solo on "Orion" and the introduction harmonic solo in "The Day That Never Comes.” Hetfield also writes the majority of the guitar harmonies, the lyrics, vocal melodies, and co-arranging the songs with Ulrich.
Metallica has won nine Grammy Awards and released nine studio albums, three live albums, four extended plays and 24 singles. In 2009, Hetfield was ranked number 8 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, and ranked 24th by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time.
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.
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