When Metallica’s first ballad Fade to Black was released, it faced a strong backlash. The song tackles depression and suicidal thoughts, which were definitely taboo topics back in 1984. But let’s be honest, they pretty much still are nowadays. Many people were extremely critical of the lyrics, claiming that the song promotes suicide. There was even an urban legend going around that some kids committed suicide precisely because of this song. Even I remember that this story was going around in the early 2000s when I was a teen listening to Metallica.
But when James Hetfield himself spoke about the song, he said that the band had received hundreds of letters from kids who claimed that Fade to Black had saved them. I imagine them standing on the edge of a cliff, and this song pulling them back. As for my experience with this song, I remember that Fade to Black became one of my favorites around the age of 14. I was blown away by the lyrics. I wanted to share my impressions with mom so I even translated the lyrics to Serbian for her. I also remember the worried look in her eyes, though, but she had no reason for it. As you can see, I’m alive and I’m writing this.
I believe James’ story about the letters. I believe that Fade to Black has indeed grabbed many people by the shirt and pulled them back from the cliff’s edge, instead of pushing them over it. Because when you hear a song about depression, you can relate to it. You realize that someone out there understands you and feels the same as you. You find out that you’re not crazy. And that you’re not alone.
I was pulled by the shirt by songs, photos, jokes, and stories of everyone who used them to speak up about their weaknesses. And I will be forever grateful for that. Thanks to these people, I’ve realized that I’m not alone, I’m not insane, and most importantly: that there’s nothing wrong in asking for help.
So, people, talk about depression. Talk about your mood disorders, about all serious and less serious conditions, doubts, and fears you go through. Talk about these topics, write songs and poems, take photos, paint your feelings… You will pull someone out there from the edge of a cliff without even knowing. And there’s no greater good deed than saving someone’s life.
If you’re depressed and/or have suicidal thoughts, here you can find a global list of suicide hotlines.