On August 3, 1963, James Alan Hetfield was born in Downey, California. We all know the now 54-year-old went on to make a name for himself with Metallica, but here are 20 things you might not know about the rocker:

1. James’s mom was an opera singer and his dad was a truck driver.

2. Hetfield’s parents were strict Christian Scientists, which meant they didn’t believe in medicine, even when his mom was dying from cancer. James wrote about being raised in the faith in the song “The God That Failed” off the Black Album, as well as in other tracks.

 

3. At age 9, James started piano lessons. Five years later, he started learning the guitar.

 

4. As a teenager, James was in bands with names like Leather Charm and Obsession.

5. James wound up in Metallica after answering an ad drummer Lars Ulrich had placed.

 

6. In the early 90s, James took voice lessons. His vocal coach gave him a cassette tape of how to warm up his voice. He still uses that tape to do his warm ups before Metallica performs live or records.

 

7. Five days after James’s birthday in 1992, a pyrotechnic charge exploded next to him during a gig in Montreal. While his guitar protected him from the worst of the blast, he still suffered second and third degree burns from the fire that engulfed his left side. He was back on stage 17 days later.

8. James loves to skateboard but there is a clause in his contract forbidding him from doing it while the band tours. This is because he’s broken his arm a few times from skateboarding, which prevented him from playing on stage.

 

9. Along with skateboarding, James loves snowboarding, water skiing, jet skiing, sketching, hunting and customizing cars and motorcycles.

10. One car that James owns is a Chevy Blazer called The Beast because it is outfitted to survive anything from earthquakes to a nuclear blast.

 

11. The first single James ever bought was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

 

12. James has been sober for 16 years.

13. Hetfield is a fan of the Oakland Raiders.

 

14. James has been a member of the National Rifle Association.

 

15. Hetfield married his wife, Francesca, in 1997. She is from Argentina and used to do wardrobe for the band.

 

16. James and Francesca have three kids: Cali born in 1998, Castor born in 2000 and Marcella born in 2002.

 

17. Among Hetfield’s many tattoos are the words “Carpe Diem,” an M on his right hand (for Metallica) and an F on his left hand (for his wife, Francesca), Jesus, razors and four playing cards in fire. The cards are an ace, a nine, a six and a three – representing the year he was born.

18. James spoke about his youth in the 2012 documentary Absent, which is about the effects of absent fathers on their children.

 

19. James voiced a dragon in the Disney cartoon Dave the Barbarian. He’s also voiced himself in The Simpsons and American Dad and appeared as himself on the show Billions.

20. Hetfield has said he will always be in Metallica until he is mentally or physically unable to be in it.

Happy birthday James! Hope you celebrate in style.

Photo Credit: Getty