Metallica co-founder, lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield is also the band’s primary songwriter and has written the lyrics of numerous classics, including ‘Sad But True,’ ‘One,’ and ‘The Unforgiven.’ While the singer may seem like the savage frontman of one of the most aggressive metal bands, Hetfield has opened up about many touching and personal matters in his lyrics.
When James Hetfield had written ‘The God That Failed‘ over his agony surrounding his mother’s death, he allowed his fans to feel how he felt about his parent’s religion. For those of you who don’t know, Hetfield’s mother could have survived if she wasn’t a Christian Scientist, as she refused medication and treatment when battling cancer due to her religious beliefs.
Although the track gives a sneak peek into the lead singer’s mind and attitude towards the strict belief, he has also candidly opened up about the matter. Let’s see how little James Hetfield felt about growing up in a household where doctors weren’t allowed and it affected his approach to songwriting.
James Hetfield’s Parents Were Strict Christian Scientists
James Hetfield’s parents were Cynthia Bassett, a light opera singer, and Virgil Lee Hetfield, a truck driver. Although his parents divorced in 1976, when Hetfield was 13, the rocker was raised under the influence of his mother and father’s strict religion as they were Christian Scientists.
They firmly refused medication or any other medical treatment and remained loyal to their faith that God will help them if their sickness is supposed to be healed. Hetfield’s family didn’t change their minds even when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, resulting in her passing.
James Hetfield Said His Parents’ Belief Was Alienating
While talking about ‘The God That Failed,’ featured in the band’s ‘The Black Album,’ James Hetfield revealed that his family’s religion inspired the story behind the track, just like the track named ‘Dyers Eve.’ Let’s explore the secret meaning behind the track and the tragic meaning of Hetfield’s lyrics.
Apparently, the musician reflected on the time when he was forced to live according to the rules of Christian Science by his parents at a young age. According to his statement, Hetfield experienced a difficult childhood since his religion alienated him from his friends, especially in elementary school, as he would skip health classes.
Furthermore, the Metallica frontman stated that every time he had to leave the class, he heard whispers from other kids and had to explain his situation, which must have been tiring and overwhelming for a seven-year-old. In addition to this, the rocker said his parents’ religion made him feel like he wasn’t a part of this earth all of which were reflected in ‘The God That Failed.’
While explaining the track, Hetfield stated:
“Basically about me being forced into a certain religious belief at a young age. My parents were raising me as a Christian Scientist which basically you’re not believing doctors. I mean there are some great aspects to religion but for a child, it was a little difficult to grasp. It’s one of those religions that I think you can understand a little better when you’re older and have been to the doctor and understand what it’s about.
Basically, mind over matter and it was difficult and very alienating for me as a child being raised this religion and how I couldn’t attend certain health classes at school. You know, when you’re in elementary school you wanna be hanging out with the buddies and doing stuff together.”
“All of a sudden they get their health books out and I wasn’t supposed to learn about the body because this is just a shell for your soul and you don’t need to know about it because you’re never going to the doctor. God will fix whatever ails you, so I had to get up and leave the class, hearing whisperings and have to go into this whole explanation about the religion. When you’re seven years old you don’t wanna sit there and do that to everybody.
When you’re on the football team and get exempted from taking your physical and all of this and it didn’t make me feel a part of this earth. It actually really alienated me as silly as it sounds but it really did.”
You can watch James Hetfield’s confession and listen to ‘The God That Failed’ below.