As one of the most revered guitarists in rock music, Kirk Hammett knows a thing or two about what makes a good singer. After all, he’s been performing with one of the best, the great James Hetfield, since the 1980s.
Hammett, who joined Metallica in 1983, once revealed that he was sitting on the toilet when he recieved the invitation to audition for the role of guitarist. Obviously, he aced the audition, and Hammett has spent the last 39 years at the helm of one of the most celebrated metal bands of all time. Much of the group’s success is due to the intense musical chemistry between Hammett and Hetfield, whose duel guitars have so often formed the bedrock of Metallica’s high-octane recordings.
The pair’s mutual respect for one another’s musicianship allowed them to craft their hit single ‘Enter Sandman’ so efficiently. According to Hammett, when he was writing the central riff, he was trying to evoke the chugging bulk of ‘Smoke On The Water’ by Deep Purple, whose frontman, Ritchie Blackmore, has been something of an idol of Hammett’s scene he was a teenager.
Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant also falls into the camp of singers who shaped Hammett’s formative years. Talking to Artisan News at the premiere for Led Zeppelin’s film Celebration Day, the guitarist called Plant’s voice: “The soundtrack of my youth. They are pretty much like the first band that I actually sat down with a guitar and tried to learn guitar solos, the songs. I cannot say enough about Led Zeppelin and the impact that they had on me and my musical career.”
By this point, you’ll have realised that pretty much all of Hammett’s favourite singers have one thing in common: they were formative to the development of heavy metal. This is equally true of Ronnie James Dio, who fronted Rainbow and fronted Black Sabbath after the departure of Ozzy Osbourne, who also happens to be one of Hammett’s favourite vocalists. In a 2014 interview with Invisible Oranges, he recalled the impact Osbourne’s unique sound had on him as an aspiring musician. “The very first time I heard Black Sabbath it spoke to me beyond just music. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, these are horror movies put into songs.'”
But before you start thinking that Hammett’s taste in music begins and ends with ’70s heavy metal groups, it’s worth remembering that the guitarist lived through the punk explosion of the mid-1970s. It’s no surprise, then, that The Clash’s Joe Strummer also features on Hammett’s list.
Chatting to Pop! Talk, he claimed: “Joe Strummer has the best voice in the world, you know. (He was) a guy that could sing anything and he would make it great. He could sing so horrendously out of key and you would be just loving it, you know.”
From Plant to Strummer; that’s quite the leap. You can check out the full list of Kirk Hammett’s favourite singers below.
Kirk Hammett’s favourite singers:
- Ian Gillan
- Robert Plant
- Ronnie James Dio
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Rob Halford
- Joe Strummer
- Paul Rodgers