Upon first hearing the song One by Metallica many would assume it is just a heavy metal song that has no true meaning to its lyrics other than to sound abrasive and frightening. However this song in particular has a much deeper meaning than just to scare listeners. The song is based on the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun written by Dalton Trumbo in 1029. In order to understand the song in its entirety we must first be able to understand the novel and its meaning.
Johnny Got His Gun was written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo began writing in 1937 and the novel was officially published in September 3rd 1939, two days after the outbreak of World War II. After the Pearl harbor attack Trumbo and his ...view middle of the document...
Johnny Got His Gun was no exception.
The book is about a young man by the name of Joe Bonham who is a World War I veteran. After being blown up by a landmine Joe is left faceless and limbless. The entire novel is based on Joe's memories and his life in the hospital being unable to communicate with anyone. Joe thinks about his father, specifically a quote wherein his father says "For democracy, any man would give his only begotten son". This leads us to the assumption that war fighting in was is a noble action and that dying in war is worth the sacrifice.
Upon reading Johnny Got His Gun and conducting further research on its author Dalton Trumbo I have been able to interpret the song One much better than before. One was released in 1989. Critics praised Hetfield’s psychological portrayal of the horribly disfigured World War I veteran. Hetfield has gone on to say that he wrote the song to portray a feeling of being cut off from the outside world, just as the main character in Trumbo’s famous book felt.(Encyclopedia Metallica).
The band Metallica was formed in 1982 and debued their first album Kill Em All in 1983. The founding members of Metallica are James Hetfield (vocalist) and Lars Ulrich (drums). The song One was released on the bands fourth studio album …And Justice For All. The album was the band’s first Grammy nomination which they lost to Jethro Toll in 1989. In 1990 One earned the band their first Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
The song bares a very close resemblance to the work of Dalton Trumbo. When we first hear the song there is the sound of machine guns and a helicopter fading in the distance, painting the picture of a war setting. The two lines of the song are as follows, “I can’t remember anything, can’t tell if this is true or dream” which is the first sign of inspiration by Trumbo. In Johnny Got His Gun, Joe states “I can’t tell if I’m alive and dreaming or dead and remembering”(Trumbo), this idea is what Hetfield and Ulrich are trying to portray with the first two lines. “This terrible silence stops me” introduces the idea the main character in this piece is unable to make any noise at all.
The main character in the song begins to wake up and realize that he is blind and is immediately exposed to severe pain. He realizes that all of his limbs are gone as well as his face. “Back in the womb it’s much too real” is used to provide a comparison because in his state he is currently being fed through a tube and cannot see or hear anything, just like one would experience in the womb which would be disturbing to anyone. “In pumps life that I must feel” references the earlier line “Nothing is real but pain now”. The soldier is being kept on life support, forcing him to constantly feel pain which at this point is what his entire...