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8/31/07

James Hetfield


James Alan Hetfield (born 3 August 1963, Downey, California) is the main songwriter, lead vocalist, guitarist and a founding member of the American thrash/heavy metal band Metallica.

Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963, in Downey, Los Angeles County, California. His family were of German descent. The father, Virgil Hetfield (a truck driver) and mother, Cynthia (a light opera singer) were devout and strict adherents to Christian Science, and accordingly, much of his young life revolved around religion. In accordance with their beliefs, Hetfield's parents strongly disapproved of medicine or any medical help and remained vigilant in their faith even as his mother began to die of cancer. Her death and his subsequently turbulent relationship with religion are both recurring subjects that have been the focal point of some of Metallica's lyrics (the songs "Mama Said", "Dyers Eve" and "The God That Failed," are about Hetfield's mother and father, and "Until It Sleeps" is about cancer, from which both of his parents died).

Hetfield was nine years old when he took his first piano lessons, before taking on his brother David's drums and finally picking up a guitar at the age of fourteen. His main influence was Aerosmith, and he has said that they were the reason why he wanted to play guitar. Other bands such as Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy also had a major influence on him. Hetfield formed his first band, Obsession, in his early teens. Composed of the Veloz brothers on bass and drums, Jim Arnold on guitar, and Hetfield providing lead vocals, the band spent plenty of time in the Veloz brothers' garage jamming, with Ron McGovney and Dave Marrs acting as roadies. Marrs and McGovney subsequently joined the band itself when the Veloz brothers quit.

After moving to Brea, California due to the death of his mother, James attended Brea Olinda High School and met up with drummer Jim Mulligan. The two jammed at lunch time, scaring fellow guitarists with their loud and heavy sounds, before another student named Hugh Tanner was seen carrying around part of a flying V guitar at school. Hetfield's next band Phantom Lord was born with Tanner on guitar, Mulligan on drums, and Hetfield singing while also playing guitar. The group went through a few bass players until graduation, when Hetfield moved back to Downey.

Once back in Downey, Hetfield moved into a house owned by McGovney's parents that was slated for demolition due to an expressway expansion. Hetfield talked McGovney into taking up bass, Phantom Lord disbanded, and then the third band under Hetfield's leadership, Leather Charm, was born. Hetfield no longer played guitar and McGovney played bass guitar, while Tanner and Mulligan retained their former Phantom Lord positions. Leather Charm was largely a hard rock combo, playing a few originals and in addition to covers, such as Iron Maiden's "Remember Tomorrow". The band performed at a few parties and recorded a demo, but then began to fall apart.

Tanner left the band, to be replaced by Troy James. Then Mulligan left for a more progressive, Rush-like band. Without a drummer, the rest of the band decided to call it quits. Although it was Mulligan's departure that led to Hetfield searching for a new drummer, it was Hugh Tanner who introduced him to Lars Ulrich, which led to the creation of Metallica.

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