How James Hetfield Was Affected By Cliff Burton’s Death

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After achieving worldwide fame and commercial success, Metallica‘s members had the chance to experience the rock and roll lifestyle to its fullest. However, rockers usually pay the price of leading such a notorious life with their mental and physical health. Many rockstars have gone through this process and surrendered themselves to alcohol, drugs, or both.

Metallica’s icon James Hetfield is also known to have a history with alcohol addiction and, he never hid it from anyone. In fact, the band had to cancel some shows so that Hetfield could go to rehab, which was candidly announced to their devoted fanbase. During this challenging period, he went through some problems with his family, but he was determined to battle his addiction for them.

However, the frontman and his bandmates experienced a scarring tragedy in 1986, as they lost their friend and Metallica’s bassist Cliff Burton. Burton was sleeping in their tour bus with Kirk Hammett when the bus sprang out of control, and Burton was violently thrown out of the window.

Unfortunately, the successful musician passed away that night, and this trauma changed the lives of his friends forever. Especially James Hetfield’s alcohol consumption and addiction were triggered after the horrifying accident.

How Did Burton’s Death Affect James Hetfield’s Alcohol Addiction?

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Whatever the band was drinking before Burton passed away, they had doubled it to suppress their grief. Hetfield buried his sadness and covered it up with tours, music, and alcohol. He was struggling to accept his friend’s passing and didn’t even manage to grieve for him properly.

When he went into rehab in 2001, he was advised to recall the moments he shared with Burton, embrace their memories and grieve his death. In an interview in 2016, he opened up about this period in his life and stated that Burton’s death triggered his alcohol addiction, and to overcome it, he had to face his sadness.

Here is the story as told by Hetfield in 2016:

“Oh, there’s no doubt about it. No doubt. We drank a lot. And then when Cliff passed away, it was doubled – took twice as much to stuff it down. And I never, ever really grieved. We just went back out, started touring again, and that was supposedly the remedy to shake it off and to get back on the horse, all the cliches.

But you know, when I was in rehab in 2001, they said, ‘You gotta hang out a couple more weeks because of the grieving. There’s your mom and Cliff, the two people that you have never been able to grieve around. You gotta do some work on it.’ So we did. And I think just by opening up to the memories, just by thinking about him, feeling his presence, that’s how grieving is happening for me over a longer period of time.

I miss him more as a person than as a musician, and that’s different for me. You know, back in the day, he and I were pretty alike as far as things that we liked and things that we liked to do. I think I learned a lot from him, and I learned a lot after he passed. You know, ‘What would Cliff do?’ But I think I’m able to be more myself, and he taught me that. He helped teach me that it’s OK to be different and, to stand up for what you believe in. You don’t have to have all the ammo in the world to fight the war, just be you. That’s enough.”

Why Did Hetfield Relapse?

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The frontman faced his traumas and sadness when he went into rehab. He stayed sober for 15 years only to relapse in 2019. Metallica announced the cancellation of their Australia and New Zealand tours and supported Hetfield during these difficult times. They continued to be there for the singer and showed their support by waiting for his recovery to continue performing.

This time, Hatfield’s recovery lasted for a year, and he returned to performing in 2020 only to be hit by the pandemic restrictions. Recently the band released a new project for their iconic ‘Black Album’ anniversary named ‘The Metallica Blacklist’ featuring covers of their most known songs with famous and contemporary singers.

You can have a listen at ‘The Metallica Blacklist’ below.