Band members James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett wrote this. According to Hetfield, he wrote the song about a girlfriend he once had, but when he looks back at it, he can't remember why he wrote it. Now, Metallica just considers it a song about their fans, because nothing else matters but their fans.
The orchestration in the song was arranged by Michael Kamen, who also conducted the San Francisco Symphony orchestra. This song appears on Metallica's 1999 live album S&M, which was recorded with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra. (thanks, Nick - Paramus, NJ, for all above)
James Hetfield has cited the band's constant touring as an inspiration for this song. They wrote pieces of the song on their tour bus and in numerous hotels.
This is one of the few Metallica songs where James Hetfield played the guitar solo rather than Kirk Hammett. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Hetfield explained this song to Mojo magazine December 2008. Said the Metallica singer: "It's about being on the road, missing someone at home, but it was written in such a way, it connected with so many people, that it wasn't just about two people, it was about a connection with your higher power, lots of different things."
Hetfield added: "I remember going to the Hell's Angels Clubhouse in New York, and they showed me a film that they'd put together of one of the fallen brothers, and they were playing Nothing Else Matters. Wow. This means a lot more than me missing my chick, right? This is brotherhood. The army could use this song. It's pretty powerful."
Hetfield told Mojo that after penning this love ballad, he was initially concerned about playing it to the rest of the band. He explained: "At first I didn't even want to play it for the guys. I thought that Metallica could only be the four of us. These are songs about destroying things, head banging, bleeding for the crowd, whatever it is, as long as it wasn't about chicks and fast cars, even though that's what we liked. The song was about a girlfriend at the time. It turned out to be a pretty big song."
The 3/4 waltz time signature is more commonly associated with Classical pieces like "The Blue Danube
," but select rockers have had success with it as well, as Metallica did on this track. The Jimi Hendrix song "Manic Depression
" is also in 3/4.
The Scala & Kolacny Bros. recorded an acoustic choral version of this song for the soundtrack to Zero Dark Thirty, a 2012 thriller about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, starring Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke. (thanks, Charlie - Las Vegas, NV)