The 3 Hard Rock vocalists that James Hetfield chose as the best

James Hetfield

Formed in California back in 1981, Metallica became the most successful Thrash Metal band in the history with an estimated amount of more than 125 million records sold worldwide in more than 40 years. But their music genre wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Hard Rock music and many bands from the genre that appeared especially in the 70s. Besides being a talented guitarist, Metallica’s frontman James Hetfield is also a praised vocalist and over the decades he gave his opinion on many of his peers.

In 2008 he listed for Rolling Stone magazine the singers that in his opinion were the best of all time and in the middle of them there were 3 Hard Rock vocalists. Rock and Roll selected what the musician said about those artists over the years and his connection with some of them.

The 3 Hard Rock vocalists that James Hetfield chose as the best

Bon Scott (AC/DC)

The late AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott, who died in 1980 at the age of 33 occupied the position number 5 between the 20 singers chosen by Hetfield as the best. The Metallica frontman was lucky enough to have seen the musician live in 1978. He was only a 15 year-old kid when he first saw AC/DC live and it was also his first “real live concert” as he told Guitar World in 2009. The Australian group was Aerosmith’s opening act.

“Music would speak my voice. It connected on so many levels, it made perfect sense that I would want to express myself that way. It was all about Kiss and Aerosmith. The first concert I went to was Aerosmith and AC/DC at the Long Beach Arena,” James Hetfield said.

The first concert he ever went to was Aerosmith with AC/DC as the opening act

Curiously, more than a decade later in 1991, Metallica toured with AC/DC as their opening act during the Monsters Of Rock tour. With was one of the last bands that Metallica opened for in their career, becoming a headliner after the smash hit of the “Black Album” (1991).

Another AC/DC member that Hetfield praised over the years was the late guitarist Malcolm Young who died in 2017 at the age of 64. The legendary rhythm guitarist of the Hard Rock was a huge inspiration for Hetfield.

“So guitar influences for me—really percussive. As I mentioned earlier, I’d love to play drums too (laughs), you know? What I do is play drums on the guitar. I’m very rhythmic, and obviously I’m a rhythm guitar player. So there’s some great rhythm guitar players out there.

Malcolm Young (AC/DC) obviously. Rudolf Schenker (Scorpions) and I would say Johnny Ramone (The Ramones) had just a great right hand. A lot of down picking, da-da-da-da (he sings a guitar down-picking part), really machine-like,” James Hetfield told Newsweek in 2017.

Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)

The second best placed Hard Rock vocalist on the list made by Hetfield is the legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, on the position number 10 among the best singers of all time.

Even though Metallica already was a famous group in the 80s and 90s playing festivals all over the world, the band’s frontman only had the chance to meet face-to-face with Robert Plant in 2015. In that year Hetfield shared a hand-written of the “Top 10 Thingz of 2015” that happened in his life. On the fourth position he put “Meeting Robert Plant”. That meeting was only behind watching his kids grow, “getting the best guitar sound yet recording a new album” and being still alive.

In 2004, he listed to Rolling Stone magazine his 10 favorite songs of all time and one of them was Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. “When I first got a guitar, I figured out the first couple of fingerings to this. I ran around the house saying, ‘Check it out. I can play this!’ My family was like, ‘Where’s the rest of the song?’” James Hetfield said.

When Hetfield was still in school he was part of a band called Obsession and they used to make a lot of covers at their shows, including songs from Led Zeppelin.

Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)

The only American Hard Rock vocalist on the list, occupying position number 11, Steven Tyler also was a big influence to Hetfield since he praised Aerosmith many times over the years. In 2002, Metallica was invited by MTV Icon (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) to honor Aerosmith on the show.

Hetfield was one of the members of the band who gave a speech that day. He shared his love for the band from Boston and recalled how much they inspired him when he was young. “I would just like to close my eyes and imagine myself in my room as that teenager listening to ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’. Playing them to the grooves were worn out. Listening to every Brad and Joe lick toward the very end. I could sing every one of those things.”

“I would turn them up so loud to get every last note that the next song would scare the hell out at me. Especially little things like before my favorite song ‘Nobody’s Fault’. Someone walked in the studio and I heard a door. I simply thought that was so cool, ‘they didn’t take that out!’”

James Hetfield continued:

“But anyway there were plenty of posters on my wall and the one that really meant a lot to me was the one of Steven and Joe up there singing into the same microphone. My mom, God rest her soul, she was an artist. She projected my image onto the wall and painted me as Steven and as Joe, in a silhouette. It was so cool, it was in my room. I just couldn’t decide which was cooler. So I decided to sing and play guitar.”

“Also I just wanted to acknowledge how much I admire you as humans and in this music business is really tough to stay human. There is a lot of people that demand a lot of things from. All the hell that you guys have gone trough and come through as stronger people are extremely inspirational to. Especially myself, someone who has fallen and I love you guys, thank you,” James Hetfield.

As he told Guitar World in 2009, the first “real concert” he ever saw was Aerosmith and AC/DC (As the opening act).

James Hetfield didn’t understand what Steven Tyler was singing when he was young

Even though he loved Aerosmith so much when he was a teenager, he couldn’t understand what Steven Tyler was singing. He even decide to write a letter to the band asking for them to send him the lyrics. Hetfield recalled that funny story in a conversation with Rolling Stone in 1993.

“I wrote letters to Aerosmith. They were my all-time favorites back then. I wanted the lyrics. ‘Man, I can’t understand what the fuck he is singing. Can you please send me the lyrics?’ I sent it to Steven, Joey, Tom. I put all their names on the letter. Of course, I expected something back. I had no idea of the magnitude of it all.”

“Because they were so personal to me. I could feel their music. They were my buddies. I didn’t get anything back. I got an order form for a ‘Draw the Line’ T-shirt. Wow, thanks a lot. When we started getting more into the music and meeting these people, it was, hell, they’re regular guys. They have problems dealing with the public. But I did learn a lot about how I would like not to treat our fans,” James Hetfield said.

Rafael Polcaro: I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG