The Sad Truth About James Hetfield’s Cliff Burton Tattoo

Many of you would agree that tattoos have been a substantial part of the rock and metal music scene for so long. They are usually associated with the rebellious spirit of rock and metal genres. It appears that tattoos will never be out of fashion as they are also means of self-expression for many musicians.

Rock stars choose some of the tattoos because they look notably cool, or they simply like to follow the trend. Yet, some others also have meaningful stories behind them that have a special place in their heart. Metallica frontman James Hetfield is also known to have many tattoos on different parts of his body. One of them means a lot to Hetfield as it is about his late bandmate Cliff Burton who deeply affected James with his tragic death.

Metallica Bassist Cliff Burton Died In A Bus Crash

On September 27, 1986, the music world was totally devastated by a young and very talented musician’s sudden death. Unfortunately, Metallica’s bassist Cliff Burton tragically passed away in a bus crash while the band was touring in Europe. The band was heading towards Sweden to promote their ‘Master of Puppets’ album when the accident happened.

When the bus driver lost control due to the black ice on the road, Cliff was asleep. The bus got off the road, and Burton was thrown out of the window. Sadly, he instantly died at the site of the accident despite his bandmate’s efforts to save him. Although James Hetfield later accused the bus driver of being drunk at the time of the incident, he wasn’t charged for the accident.

It is undeniable that Cliff Burton left a massive impact on the history of music, and he keeps inspiring many other musicians that came after him. He is accepted as one of the greatest bassists by many, but he also had a broad knowledge of music theory and various sounds in general. Burton also had a distinctive style of playing accompanied by his impressive technical virtuosity.

James Hetfield Has A Cliff Burton Tattoo On His Arm

What is beyond doubt is that Cliff Burton’s heartbreaking death had a huge impact on the remaining Metallica members. The band members started to drink heavily to suppress their grief, and their struggle to deal with his death took years. There was no other incident in the band’s history that had such a dramatic effect.

The unfortunate incident was totally devastating for James Hetfield as it was to the other Metallica members. He already had an alcohol addiction problem before Burton’s death, and it was triggered further by the deep emotions he had. Hetfield even has a Cliff Burton tattoo on his upper left forearm.

In the tattoo, there are some musical notes of the band’s song ‘Orion,’ which is like a signature of Burton’s mastery in bass playing. ‘Orion’ is the only instrumental piece in the band’s ‘Master of Puppets’ which was released in 1986. It is known that Cliff had written some parts of the track. It is also mostly dominated by his incredible solos and riffs.

It is fair to say that the song is completely identified with Cliff, especially after his death. ‘Orion’ was also played at Burton’s funeral, and it turned into a tribute song that Metallica plays in their shows to salute their late bandmate. Apparently, James Hetfield also equates Cliff Burton with this special song as he chose to make a tattoo of it to dedicate it to his late friend.

Below, you can watch the video in which James Hetfield talked about his Cliff Burton tattoo.