Last Thursday, June 14, heavy metal band Metallica was awarded the Polar Music Prize in Sweden. In addition to a trophy, the band also received a monetary award equivalent to $130,000, which the group has now announced it will donate to charity.
“The Polar Music Prize celebrates the power and importance of music and is awarded to individuals, groups, or institutions for international recognition of excellence in the world of music,” it is stated on the official website for the Prize. “The Polar Music Prize awards two Laureates [each year] in order to celebrate music in all its various forms and to emphasize the original intention of the Polar Music Prize: to break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music.” Previous recipients of the Polar Music Prize include Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Emmylou Harris.
At last week’s ceremony and banquet at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Deep Purple’s Ian Paice and Roger Glover presented the award to Metallica. First, they spoke fondly about the band, recalling when they first heard about the “Enter Sandman” musicians, and then they read the Prize’s official citation.
“Not since Wagner’s emotional turmoil and Tchaikovsky’s cannons has anyone created music that is so physical and furious, and yet still so accessible. Through virtuoso ensemble playing, and its use of extremely accelerated tempos, Metallica has taken rock music to places it had never been before. In Metallica’s world, both a teenage bedroom and a concert hall can be transformed into a Valhalla. The strength of the band’s uncompromising albums has helped millions of listeners to transform their sense of alienation into a superpower.”
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo were on hand to receive the award, while frontman/guitarist James Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett stayed at home.
“The type of music that we play was not supposed to be acknowledged or embraced by the mainstream, the media, or even large audiences,” Ulrich said during his acceptance speech on behalf of all the members of the band, reported Billboard.
“In 1981, when this band formed, I just wanted to play music in a collective setting and feel like I belonged to something bigger than myself,” he continued. “From the beginning, we always felt like outsiders, we always felt like, somehow, we were not good enough, not cool enough to be accepted by a general music audience, so we found strength and solace in the little bubble we occupied way out in left field.
“Then an unexpected thing happened. The mainstream audience began moving closer and closer to the area where the disenfranchised like ourselves were hovering…. So receiving this prize solidifies the idea that no matter how alienated you feel, connecting to other people through music is not only possible, but can be outright inspirational and life-changing.”
According to another Billboard story, half of Metallica’s prize money will be donated to the Stockholm City Mission, which helps the homeless, and 25 percent will be given to the World Childhood Foundation, which Sweden’s Queen Silvia founded to protect children around the globe that have suffered violence and/or sexual abuse.
The remaining 25 percent will go to the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), which provides a safe environment for the young people of Kabul to learn and enjoy music no matter their background. The ANIM’s Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, who founded the organization in 2010, also received a Polar Music Prize at this year’s ceremony.
“Many of the Polar Music Prize Laureates over the years have donated their prize money to charity,” Marie Ledin, the managing director of the Prize, told Billboard. “It’s not something we ask of them, but we appreciate their generosity.”
Ledin is the daughter of the late Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, who held many positions in the music industry, including serving as the publisher, lyricist, and manager of the great Swedish pop group ABBA. He founded the Prize in 1989, naming it after his record label, Polar Music.
Metallica has been on the road since 2016, supporting its 10th studio album, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. They will be performing again in North America from Sept. 2-March 19.