“To Live Is to Die” is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica from their fourth studio album …And Justice for All. It was released on August 25, 1988.
This song is a tribute to Metallica’s bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a tour bus crash. It is instrumental except the spoken word piece near the end – this was a poem that Cliff wrote before he died. Cliff Burton receives co-writers credit on “To Live Is to Die” as the bass line was a medley of unused bass recordings Burton had performed prior to his death. While the original recordings are not used on the track, the compositions are credited as written by Burton and are played by Metallica’s bassist at the time, Jason Newsted. The words spoken towards the end of the song (“when a man lies, he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives…”) by Hetfield were written by German poet Paul Gerhardt, but are misattributed to Burton in the liner notes. Still, the second half of the speech (“All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?”) were written by Burton.
Metallica Singer James Hetfield explained to Mojo magazine December 2008 that this song is, “a homage to Cliff without going over the top.” He added: “It’s about realizing how grateful we were to have that time with him.”