Metallica’s James Hetfield on His Mom Refusing Medical Treatment for Cancer: “She had religion around her…But the cancer was stronger” – 2022

The New Yorker: “I get up there and sing, and I watch people change,” James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica, told Amanda Petrusich. Today the band announced plans to release its 11th record.

The New Yorker posted a really great, in-depth profile on Metallica. You can read the entire feature @ this location. An excerpt has been provided below.

James Hetfield was born in Downey, California, in 1963. His mother, Cynthia, had two sons from a previous marriage. His father, Virgil, had fought in the Second World War and started a trucking company when he returned to California. “He did not have a great childhood,” Hetfield said of his father. “My grandfather was some crazy musician who came through town, and then off he went—imagine that,” he added, laughing. His parents were devout Christian Scientists, and had met in church, where Virgil helped lead a weekly service. But Hetfield never connected with the religion.

“It felt lonely,” he said. “When my dad was up there reading from the Scriptures, he was getting tears in his eyes. It moved him. I didn’t get it. I thought something was wrong with me.” Hetfield recalled being embarrassed when he wasn’t allowed to attend health class or receive a physical to play football. “I still carry shame about that,” he said. “How different we were to people.”

When Hetfield was thirteen, his father left. “I went off to church camp, and I came back, and he was gone,” he recalled. Two years later, his mother developed cancer, but refused medical treatment on religious grounds. “We watched her wither to nothing,” he said. “She had religion around her, inside her. She had practitioners coming over. But the cancer was stronger.” Hetfield is still not entirely sure what type of cancer she had. “Probably something really curable,” he said.

For a long time, Hetfield was angry that his mother had rebuffed doctors. “I thought she cared more about religion than she did her kids,” he said. “It wasn’t talked about, either—if you’re talking about it, you’re giving it power, and you want to take power away from it. So admitting that you’re sick, that’s a no-no. We just saw it happening.” Cynthia died when Hetfield was sixteen. “There was nothing solid to stand on,” he said. “I felt extremely lost.” On “The God That Failed,” an angry, punishing cut from “Metallica,” Hetfield sings about the experience: “Broken is the promise, betrayal / The healing hand held back by the deepened nail.”

You can read the entire feature @ this location.