Over the years, I’ve idolized many people and thought that they were the ultimate definitions of cool. When I was really young that person was my older brother, when I was around nine or ten it was any given Backstreet Boy, and then a couple of years later my idol became James Hetfield of Metallica. Granted, I’ve never thought any of these guys were quite as cool as Woody Allen apparently thought Bogart was— I never have hallucinations involving them or carried on complete conversations with them like they were right next to me when in fact they weren’t.
I suppose James Hetfield would still be the ultimate cool for me. I first discovered him when my brother brought home Metallica’s seventh cd, ReLoad, in 1997. It was instant love for me; all Backstreet Boys cds went out the window and were soon replaced by a complete collection of Metallica albums which I’ve cherished ever since. I loved the powerful lyrics Hetfield wrote, the amazing guitar, and I loved the passion he put into his live performances. When my family drove out to Denver, CO for my brother and I to attend our first Metallica concert I was in 8th grade and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was in awe the entire night because James Hetfield was the single coolest person alive and I was standing less than 200 feet from him.
Outside the schoolgirl obsession with this rather rough and tumble looking metal star, I realized that Hetfield had a lot of merit as a “real” person too, not just as a star. He had a hard life growing up in a strict religious environment that isolated him from the world, he lost his mom at a young age to cancer because she refused treatment, and after leaving home to pursue music his father refused to acknowledge his existence for a time. For me the fact that he overcame such a childhood was incredible because my family is a huge part of my life. He was also a cool idol for me because of what he did after gaining such fame. At first alcohol ruined his life and almost killed him, but after getting married and starting a family he changed completely. He made the band switch from “Alcoholica” to a truly respectable group of men. Whereas most rock bands never mature past the sex, drugs, and rock and roll of their younger years, Hetfield lead his band of family men on to even greater heights. That spoke wonders to me and made me respect this man for more than just his brilliant lyrics and music.
So while Metallica’s frontman isn’t actually a voice in my head that I confide in often, he has had an impact on my life that I can never forget. And in fact his lyrics do pop into my head at random times to provide insight about situations or information I’m mulling over. He doesn’t walk down the street talking to me as Bogart did for Woody Allen, but he is a childhood idol that still has great significance for me. His music and his life story have always inspired me, and Metallica will always hold a special place in my heart, mind, and iTunes library.