The Tragic Story Behind ‘Fade To Black’ Of Metallica

Metallica’s first power ballad, ‘Fade to Black,’ was released more than 35 years ago and it has been a subject of sensations, however, a close look at the song’s backstory also brings several tragedies that occurred in relation to the song ever since its release.

As you may know, the thrash metal legend Metallica released their second studio album titled ‘Ride the Lightning‘ back in 1984. The band’s first power ballad, ‘Fade to Black,’ was released as the first promotional song from the album. Although it received critical acclaim and certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, ‘Fade to Black’ was the subject of many discussions regarding its alleged relation to the suicides of several young people.

The song was written and produced by all the Metallica members at the time, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton. During the several interviews that the band members joined over the years, they all mentioned a significant event that affected the mood of the lyrics of the song. That event was a break-in to their gear truck which caused Hetfield to lose his favorite amplifier.

In a 1991 interview with Guitar World, James Hetfield looked back to the recording of ‘Fade to Black’ and explained why they had such a bad mood while writing the song. He also mentioned that they heard about the kids were killing themselves because of the song even though some of them sent letters to thank the band for releasing such a song that helped them feel better.

Here is what James Hetfield stated about the song in an interview he joined:

“That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so we knew it would freak people out… Recording that song, I learned how frustrating acoustic guitar can be. You could hear every squeak, so I had to be careful. I wrote the song at a friend’s house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager’s house for breaking shit and drinking his liquor cabinet dry.

It’s a suicide song, and we got a lot of flak for it as if kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.”

Later in 1993, Hetfield joined an interview with Rolling Stone magazine and talked about both the good and bad response they received for ‘Fade to Black.’ He once again mentioned that even though the majority of the critics observed the song as harmful for young people, they actually received a lot of positive responses from their young fans who sent letters telling the story of how ‘Fade to Black’ saved their lives.

Here is what Hetfield said during an interview with Rolling Stone:

“‘Fade to Black’got good and bad response. When the censorship thing started, that was one of the songs they tried to attack. These parents finding their kids dead in the garage with these lyrics, sucking on an exhaust pipe. People tried to sue bands for their mistakes. But we got tons and tons of letters—we still do—that says, ‘Fade to Black saved my life.’ But no one wants to read that. It’s too nice, too boring.”

You can listen to Metallica’s ‘Fade To Black’ on Youtube below.

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