Music fans might think it unusual to find the words “philanthropy” and “Metallica” in the same sentence. The massively successful band – and especially its legendary drummer and one of the founding members, Lars Ulrich – are more often associated with fighting music piracy and assisting artists financially rather than “regular” people. But Metallica gets a bad rap for this and it is time to acknowledge how many amazing things they do for others.
Although he is considered one of the greatest rock drummers now, Ulrich was headed for a life on the tennis courts. Born in Gentofte, Denmark, on December 26th, 1963, Ulrich’s father, Torben Ulrich, and grandfather, Einer Ulrich, were professional tennis players. When he was 16 years old, his family moved to Newport Beach in order for Lars to train and follow in their footsteps. Back in Denmark, Lars was ranked as one of the best tennis players in the country, but he quickly learned that he did not measure up to the same standards in America.
After not making the tennis team at Corona del Mar High School, Ulrich made the decision to leave tennis behind and turned his attention to his first love, music. Ulrich fell in love with rock music after attending a Deep Purple concert when he was just nine years old. His musical interest led to the gift of a drum kit when he was almost a teen, and later, discovering heavy metal band Diamond Head, he found his passion.
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS
“Stretching your parameters is a necessity if you want to keep growing, and sometimes the best way to do that is to dive into the deep end.”
LARS ULRICH | METALLICA
In 1981, he placed an ad in The Recycler looking for “like-minded musicians.” As fate would have it, fellow musician James Hetfield answered the ad and Metallica was born in Downey, CA. Both Ulrich and Hetfield shared a passion for bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead, Angel, Witch, Diamond Head, and Tygres of Pan Tang. This began a 40-year musical legacy that elevated Metallica to iconic status and inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As for the meteoric rise, that actually took a minute. Truthfully, it wasn’t until 1986 when the band released their third studio album, “Master of Puppets,” when the band earned the keys to the kingdom. That was the year legends were born. Since then, the band blew up with epic songs like “Nothing Else Matters,” “Enter Sandman,” “One,” “The Unforgiven,” “Fade To Black,” and so many other life defining sonic masterpieces.
The band even got to perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the legendary Lou Reed for an inspiring rendition of “Sweet Jane.” Performing with Reed and being inducted into the the Hall of Fame themselves were surreal moments for all the members of the band.
With success comes a ton of responsibility, at least for the legends. Once fame is thrust upon a band, it can impact them several ways… some good, some not so good. For Metallica, and especially for Ulrich, it was definitely for the better. Emerging as an outspoken musician for other musicians, as well as for other “non musical” causes, Ulrich has become the voice for so many within the world of music and outside of it.
With their incredible success, Metallica has also used their fame for the good of humanity. In 2017, the band founded All Within My Hands, a foundation to help fight hunger in less-fortunate communities. During the first year, they raised more than $750,000 for charities, and they donated $10,000 to a local charity, usually a food bank, in every city they played.
Circling back to those early days, Ulrich worked very hard to become a good drummer. He kept at it, and by the time “Master of Puppets” came out, he was ready for the big time. Ulrich’s style of “thrash drum beats” made him a pioneer and is clearly shown on Metallica’s early tracks. No matter who you are, by the time you get in the spotlight, you’ll always have supporters and critics. For Ulrich, he’s always taken it in stride, and used that megaphone to champion what he believes are things that matter.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the band sought to expand on their giving. In a May 2020 video interview with Rolling Stone, Ulrich explains, “Inspired by today’s Giving Tuesday, now a new global date of giving in response to the global need caused by COVID-19, we’re (Metallica) going to spotlight four organizations we’re supporting throughout this crisis. Each week, we will share with you what these organizations do and show you how you can chip in to help. We’ll be contributing proceeds from special weekly featured merchandise in the Metallica store and continuing to donate funds raised during the Metallica Mondays streaming concerts.”
Throughout that month, Metallica supported four coronavirus-related charities: Feeding America (partners with food banks in the US), Crew Nation (Live Nation’s charity to provide funds to touring and venue crews), United States Bartenders Guild Foundation (supports bar workers and service industry employees), and Direct Relief (aids medical professionals and first responders in the US).
Ulrich and the band also called on their fans to volunteer at food banks in their communities. During the month of May for the two years before the pandemic, Metallica encouraged fans to volunteer at food banks and give back to their communities for their “Day of Service” through their All Within My Hands organization. Expanding the day of service to a month in 2020 brought even more needed assistance to the many groups across the world.
Of course, 2020 also brought every act – from the smallest bar band all the way to the mighty Metallica – to a grinding halt. During the pandemic, the band found new, innovative ways to bring music to their fans. They were the first rock band to headline the Encore Drive-In series. The concert was filmed near their northern California headquarters exclusively for the event.
With the globe starting to head back to a state of normalcy, Metallica is ready to unleash their sonic explosion to more live audiences. Tour dates for late 2021 start with the Highland Festival Grounds at the KY Expo Center in Louisville, after which they will play Discovery Park in Sacramento.
After being ravaged by COVID, the world is healing with thanks to many, including Metallica. As we resume “normal” life, it is safe to say we are ready for entertainment and live music, so bring on the mighty – and incredibly generous – Metallica!
As for the band, on September 11th Metallica will release “The Black Album” re-mastered, the Metallica way, and by 53 artists doing it their way. Look out for this one, it may be another gem from Metallica!