Metallica’s James Hetfield Reveals How Elton John and Bernie Taupin Challenged Him

Back in October 1981, Lars Ulrich placed an advertisement in the Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler, looking for a drummer. James Hetfield not only answered the ad, but he would go on to help create the heavy metal band Metallica. Over the last several decades, the band released 11 studio albums and won several Grammy Awards. Even Rolling Stone placed Hetfield on the list of Greatest Guitarists of All Time. While spending decades on stage, the rockstar recently revealed how Elton John inspired him to write new music.

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Discussing his admiration for John, Hetfield recalled getting to perform for the icon when he and Bernie Taupin received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Sharing his love for his small recording studio, the rockstar said on The Metallica Report podcast, “Whether it’s an escape from life or whatever it is, I love my little music room basement. I’ve got a computer, a few guitars and a little rig set up. It is my soul-nourishing place, to go in there and just play and write. Not so much practicing, it’s just writing.” 

Revealing where he gains inspiration, Hetfield continued, “There’s always ideas. I get inspired [by] all kinds of different music, listening to it. Even the Elton John thing, hanging out with Elton and Bernie Taupin challenged me.”

[RELATED: Metallica’s James Hetfield Honors Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister With Tattoo Featuring Singer’s Ashes]

James Hetfield Compares Playing Guitar To Breathing

With Hetfield watching John’s biopic Rocketman, he seemed in awe at how gracefully they worked together. “Watching [2019 John biopic] Rocketman and seeing how they wrote – Elton is such a visionary in the way that Bernie sets a set of lyrics, a poem, in front of him and he sees the music just appearing, which is bizarre to me. I’m more of the old Tony Iommi way, where, ‘Here is the riff, and we build around the riff,’ you know?”

While Metallica hasn’t released new music since 2023, with the album 72 Seasons, Hetfield isn’t slowing down. He insisted, “[I’ve] been doing some skiing, getting up on the mountain – there’s been tons of snow in Colorado, where we’re at, so a good snow season – and writing loads of music. [I’ve been] playing guitar pretty much every day. I have to. It’s like breathing.”

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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