“One” is an anti-war song by the American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the third and final single from their fourth studio album, …And Justice for All (1988). “One” was also the band’s first Top 40 hit single, reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song hit number one in Finland.
Metallica performed “One” for the 1989 Grammy Awards show broadcast from Los Angeles. The next year the song won a Grammy Award in the first Best Metal Performance category. The song is one of the band’s most popular pieces and has remained a live staple since the release of the album, making this the most played song from the album …And Justice for All.
A video for the song was introduced in January 1989 on MTV. It portrays a World War I soldier who is severely wounded—blind and unable to speak nor move—returned home as a supposed vegetable case to wait helplessly for death. His only hope is to devise a way to communicate with the hospital staff. Shot in black and white by director Michael Salomon, the video’s story is intercut with scenes taken from the 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun. Due to routinely being required to pay royalty fees to continue showing the music video, Metallica bought the rights to the film. The video was ranked No. 1 on MTV soon after its introduction.
“One” was written in November 1987 by Metallica’s principal composers James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. The song was released in 1989 as the third and final single from the album. For the first 17 seconds of the song there are a series of sound effects with a battle theme, an artillery barrage and helicopter are heard and continues slightly over a clean tone guitar intro by Hetfield before Kirk Hammett comes in over the top with a clean-toned solo. Ulrich’s drums come in and continues until each chorus, when the guitars become heavy and distorted before returning to clean. There is a second solo by Hammett halfway through the song, before lyrics cut out and the song gradually gets more heavy and distorted until the “machine gun” guitar build up (played alongside double bass drums) before the next, often highly praised, guitar solo by Hammett, and a final dual solo by Hammett and Hetfield. The song begins in 4/4 time, and later 3/4 as well as 2/4.
In 1991, James Hetfield told Guitar World that he wrote the song’s opening B-G chord change (he miscalls it a ‘modulation’) based on an idea prompted by the Venom song “Buried Alive” from their second studio album, Black Metal.
I had been fiddling around with that B-G modulation for a long time. The idea for the opening came from a Venom song called “Buried Alive”. The kick drum machine-gun part near the end wasn’t written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way. We started that album with Mike Clink as producer. He didn’t work out so well, so we got Flemming to come over and save our asses.
The song starts off in a soft melodic setting, but it develops through multiple sections into heavier and faster speed metal sounds, leading up to a technically complex tapping solo by Kirk Hammett, and a dual guitar section by Hammett and James Hetfield.
The song is based on the idea of a soldier losing all of his limbs and being unable to hear, speak, or see, set to a World War I backdrop. In an interview in New Zealand in 1989, Ulrich describes the movie Johnny Got His Gun as having a similar theme, and this was the reason it was incorporated into the video Read the original wiki article here.