The Gift Of James Hetfield’s Speech

A lot of speculation has occurred in relation to James Hetfield publicly addressing his anxieties and insecurities, while in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (at Estádio do Mineirão). He mentioned that he “wasn’t feeling very good” before coming out on stage, adding that some of the insecurities are stemming from his fear of not being able to play as well, due to his getting older: “‘I’m an old guy, can’t play anymore’. All this bullshit that I tell myself in my head.”

This brought tears to my eyes. Not for the reasons many are discussing- that this potentially symbolizes the beginning of the end of Metallica. i don’t want to focus on all of the speculation; however, i will say this: if and when they do decide that they are no longer able to do this anymore, i support it. i truly believe that mental, physical and spiritual health are more important than doing anything, when you physically/mentally/spiritually are no longer able to. i really am grateful to the universe that i was able to live in the same lifetime, being able to experience them.

But again, finality is not the focus.

Before i continue, i want to mention that these words preceded ‘Sad But True’, the lyrics now carrying a whole different element:

I’m your dream, mind astray
I’m your eyes while you’re away
I’m your pain while you repay

I’m your truth, telling lies
I’m your reason, alibis
I’m inside, open your eyes
I’m you

Tears are not tears of sadness, but at marveling at a human’s journey. i am sure it took a lot for him to acknowledge what he is currently experiencing. While his struggles with addiction have been very public (i mean, there was a whole film discussing it, there were a few albums covering it (yes, i am also including Load and ReLoad) and there was the announcement of the second rehabilitation stint); this was a very different feeling.

James Hetfield was, according to many who knew him as a young person, a painfully shy individual. If the only reference you have is any year after 1985 in particular, you may disagree. However, it’s easy to conceal extreme shyness when fronting an increasingly internationally known band. Imagine being shy, then losing a parent at a young age. Imagine being young and losing the one person you looked up to for balance, inspiration and guidance. You’re more likely to either withdraw further, or take out your grief and anger on others, and/or yourself… which is ultimately what happened.

Imagine being shy, and being thrust out into the world in the biggest metal band of all time. You couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but you also most likely never thought about all of the contradictions that come with that. This latest speech, to me, is actually in line with the anxieties Hetfield named in regards to “the bigness of Metallica” in Some Kind Of Monster, the documentary covering the recording process of St. Anger (an album i hold dear to my heart, and will continue to defend). He’s been pretty consistent about this whole thing, as far as i’m concerned. In line with this i really do think my hunch was correct in recognizing that he was going through something, enough to say some of the things he did at the 40th anniversary shows (which i wrote about in previous posts).

He’s also repeated the line of not being alone during ‘Fade To Black’ in post-40th shows. There was some actual pain in his voice in this latest speech (where he stated: “Seeing you out there, I am not alone. I am not alone, and neither are you.”); it also looked as if he wiped some tears away.

As a person who’s experienced a life-altering accident (including the loss of a limb), Metallica was a huge part of that journey to assist me in coming terms with a lot of what was happening. As a person who plays instruments, they have inspired me to find joy, even in the mistakes- because i am alive to even make those mistakes. While i’m saying all of this, i do have days where i feel like i don’t know if i will ever be where i’d like to be, in terms of playing music. There are days where it’s just hard to stand or try to walk, because my existing foot and ankle are extremely swollen (like right now), or my joints feel really tight. There are days where i don’t feel like doing anything, despite knowing i have to.

There are days where it feels like i have no one to talk to, when i most need it.

The thing that affected me the most was hearing James Hetfield mention the support he received from his bandmates when discussing his mental health struggles, and how that meant “the world” to him. When Rob, Kirk and Lars all went to embrace him on stage it brought up a lot of emotions i felt during the band’s embrace at the 40th Anniversary show.

i miss hugs so much. i think i have received only all of two in the past two years. A hug a year… i guess that’s something. While i was indeed sad for myself, it made me happy to see someone else receive a much needed blanket of hugs.

It made me happy to see how far James Hetfield has come. He was open in his anxiety around getting older (and it affecting his ability to play in the same way); he also shared his growth, from an extremely shy teenager, to an angry young man to a husband and father struggling with addiction; to an elder approaching the age of 60, accepting of his own vulnerabilities. To me, that journey is a greater gift than being able to downpick at 150 BPM for the rest of your life.

i can say for certain that James Hetfield (as well as Rob Trujillo, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich) have helped many people along the way, in sharing their gifts with the world. i can say for certain that, while people love to point out all the mistakes they make, sharing those mistakes with the world gives us greater insight into our own ‘human-ness’. i can say for certain that again, the gifts Metallica have brought to the world travel far beyond music.

This speech is just an extension of that. For all of us shy kids… all the kids living with depression, feeling alone and misunderstood, experiencing loss… Metallica represents more than a musical experience.

In my eyes, it’s also a spiritual one.

What he said may have only been a minute or so long, but i am truly grateful that he took whatever trepidation he may have been facing, and shared with us what may have saved someone’s life- including his own.

About jamilah

i think about a lot of things, and sometimes i write about them.
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1 Response to The Gift Of James Hetfield’s Speech

  1. Pingback: Metallica Fridays (no. 17): Throw Ice Into The Fire, And Watch It Damage Your Fears | PROSTHETICS AND DRUMSTICKS UNITE!

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