Top Hard Rock and Metal Icons



The words ‘icon’ and ‘legend’ are thrown around pretty freely these days, much like the oft over-used ‘national treasure’ title.

But what makes an icon? The dictionary definition of icon is “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.”

A “representative symbol”, that’s the key phrase right there. Whether you like them or their bands, you can’t argue that all of the characters who follow – whether they are still with us or not – are representative symbols of the hard rock and metal worlds.

Now this list is not definitive by any means, when you’re dealing with genres that have been around for 40 years – that have branched out into more sub genres than this writer has had hot meals – could end up becoming a pretty long post! These icons though are the big guns.

The obvious choices? Of course they are or they wouldn’t be icons…

Born on December 24 1945, Ian Fraser Kilmister, or Lemmy as he was known to everyone, is without a doubt one of those towering figures in hard rock. Early influences such as the Beatles helped to get the young Ian into Rock n’ Roll and after seeing the Beatles at the Cavern Club aged 16 he decided to pick up a guitar.

He soon played in various bands and ended up being a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience before joining Hawkwind, which is where he first picked up a bass guitar. After being sacked from Hawkwind for a drug related arrest he started Mötorhead and the rest, as they say, is history.

Most Metal moment?
Not sure we can print most of them!

Lemmy in his own words
On picking up the bass guitar: “I’d found my instrument, I wasn’t supposed to play the guitar, I’m supposed to play the bass. And I’m good at it; I make it howl.”

On the summer of ’71:
“That was a great time, the summer of ’71 – I can’t remember it, but I’ll never forget it!”

Lemmy on the dead:
“People don’t become better when they’re dead; you just talk about them as if they are. But it’s not true! People are still a******s, they’re just dead a******s!”

Want see more about the life of the great man? Check out this year’s Metal Hammer Golden God Awards at the Eventim Apollo on Monday 13 June for a special tribute. Tickets are available here for the mighty metal £6.66

Ozzy Osborne
Surely the most famous metal front man of all time? Ok so these days he might be known for other activities. Lest we forget though that Ozzy along with Tony, Geezer and Bill defined what metal was, is and could become through the mighty Black Sabbath.

Ozzy’s antics are well known; snorting ants, urinating on the Alamo and biting the head of a bat it’s clear Ozzy, along with that other Rock n’ Roll legend Keith Richards, should donate his body to medical science. Not only did Ozzy define metal with Sabbath, but he also had a major solo career and introduced the world to the late, great Randy Rhoads and the bruiser that is Zakk Wylde.

Most Metal moment?
Surely the bat biting incident?

Ozzy in his own words
On being young: “When you’re young, you’re stupid. You do silly things.”

On his acting career:
“I knew it was time to get off of reality TV when someone asked me if I sang as well as acted.”

On metal and hard rock:
“All that stuff about heavy metal and hard rock, I don’t subscribe to any of that. It’s all just music. I mean, the heavy metal from the Seventies sounds nothing like the stuff from the Eighties, and that sounds nothing like the stuff from the Nineties. Who’s to say what is and isn’t a certain type of music?”

 Black Sabbath are headlining this year’s Download Festival. Find your tickets here.

Bruce Dickinson
“Scream for me (insert city here)”. Aah the legend that is Bruce Dickinson. Not only is he the front man of one of the biggest and most revered metal bands of all time, a commercially qualified airline pilot (currently flying the Boeing 747 version of Ed Force One round the world) but, he also sang Maiden’s last album while suffering with cancer. If that doesn’t make the man a legend quite frankly what will?

Joining Iron Maiden in 1981 after Paul Di’Anno’s departure Bruce helped take Maiden to the stratosphere singing on a succession of legendary albums: Number of the Beast, Peace Of Mind and Powerslave. Bruce left Maiden in the early 90’s to pursue a solo career, but came back for 2000’s ‘Brave New World’ with original guitarist Adrian Smith and the band have never looked back.

Most metal moment?
Singing an entire double album with tongue cancer, doesn’t get more metal than that.

 Bruce in his own words:
“Rock music should be gross: that’s the fun of it. It gets up and drops its trousers.”

On Metal:
“If heavy metal bands ruled the world, we’d be a lot better off.”

On how to work a crowd:
“My aim as a frontman is always to try and shrink the venue, if you can. To turn that football stadium into the world’s smallest club. At least you have to try.”

James Hetfield

James Hetfield or “Papa Het” is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player in Metallica who are often credited as one of the biggest and most influential metal bands of all time. The band’s 1981 debut ‘Kill ‘Em All’ helped usher in a new genre of metal, thrash metal. With its blisteringly fast songs, rough production and a big dollop of attitude ‘Kill ‘Em All’ was a special record.

Hetfield would continue to cement his crown as King of the riff with the band’s next album and the seminal Master of Puppets. The death of friend and band member Cliff Burton hit Hetfield hard, but he bounced back in 1991 and released the most commercially successful metal album of all time; ‘Metallica’ or more commonly, ‘The Black Album’. With a 30+ year career under his belt and some of the greatest riffs ever laid down, Hetfield is an undisputed icon of Rock and Metal.

Most Metal Moment?
That rhythm guitar work on ‘Disposable Heroes’… Blistering.

James in his own words:
“It’s all fun and games ’till someone loses an eye, then it’s just fun you can’t see.”

On playing the guitar:
Nothing can duplicate the sheer power and feeling you get from standing in front of your amp and bashing on your guitar.”

On Metal:
“There is one Metallica. We have many styles, it’s called Metallica.”

Saul Hudson, born in Stoke-on-Trent grew up to become the hard rock icon called Slash. With the release of Guns N’ Roses’ game changing ‘Appetite For Destruction’, Slash single-handedly brought an end to guitar solos and spandex’d lead guitarists. With his Gibson Les Paul Newman Marshall stack, Slash became an instant guitar hero to millions.

Slash carried on writing epic riffs and guitar solos for G N’ R until their untimely break up, and then went on to forge a successful solo career and play on records for the likes of Michael Jackson. Now having teamed up with Miles Kennedy, Slash is still writing great riffs nearly 30 years on since ‘Appetite for Destruction’.

Most hard rock moment?
Jamming Jimi Hendix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ with Zakk Wylde

Slash in his own words:
“I had no aspirations to be a musician, but I picked up a guitar for two seconds and haven’t put it down since.”

On early influences:
“I think when I was a kid, and I was in England and it was all about The Stones, The Who, The Kinks and The Beatles and that’s what my dad was into.”

On risk:
“Risk isn’t a word in my vocabulary. It’s my very existence.”

About Rick

Music lover specialising in metal and soundtracks, guitarist and sound engineer working in digital marketing. Loves Metallica, Pink Floyd and Howard Shore to name a just few.

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