Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister
1945 – 2015
Today we at Hellbound mourn the loss of Lemmy Kilmister, beloved rock and roll scoundrel most immortally known as the founder, vocalist, bassist and guiding light of the much-revered Motörhead.
Two days after his 70th birthday on December 24, 2015, Lemmy was diagnosed with an “extremely aggressive” cancer, according to the band’s Facebook. He passed away Monday December 28th, “…at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made its way down the street, with his family.”
He was the coolest motherfucker of all time.
With a musical career that spanned six decades, Lemmy Kilmister got his start in the middle ’60s with bands like the Sundowners and the Rockin’ Vickers, before moving to London in 1967 and sharing a flat with Noel Redding, which eventually landed him a gig as a roadie for Hendrix. He played with psychedelic groups like Sam Gopal and Opal Butterfly, before joining Hawkwind as bassist in 1972. Though he’d never played bass before, his experience as a rhythm guitarist shaped his aggressive playing style, which in turn helped shape the Hawkwind sound. His raspy, guttural vocal style – showcased on Hawkwind’s biggest single “Silver Machine” – figured greatly into his legend.
In 1975, after the hilarious irony of being fired from notorious acid-fiends Hawkwind for the infraction of being busted with amphetamines at the Canadian border while on tour, Lemmy, aged 30(!) at the time, set his sights on forming a band called Bastard, which he promised, “will be the dirtiest rock and roll band in the world. If we moved in next door, your lawn would die.” Upon advice from a manager that a band called Bastard “would never get on Top of the Pops,” Kilmister made the immortal decision to change the name of the band to Motörhead, after the last song he wrote for Hawkwind, an American slang term for “speed freak.” After a couple of initial lineup bumps in the road, he recruited six-string-gunslinger “Fast Eddie” Clarke, and “Philthy Animal” Taylor on the drums, and the rest was history.
Motörhead was the band that changed everything. For me, for countless others. The three-man, warhead-loud, rock and roll juggernaut launched a thousand thousand bastard-child bands. Though Lemmy insisted up and down that they were a rock and roll band, Motörhead mated the aggression of heavy metal’s volume with the speed-freak snarl of punk rock, and brought together the mohawks and the hairies, and what’s more, laid the iron foundation for thrash and speed metal, and thereby cemented their place in rock and roll history. Iconic and iconoclastic, Motörhead became a prime influence on just about everyone.
And through it all, forty years, ten members, twenty-two studio albums – Lemmy was the one constant, the compleat personification of Motörhead. Eternally, utterly cool – equally at home being crass, or being charming, as the situation called for.
We all wanted to be Lemmy. We all wanted our bands to be as loud, as raw, as fucking vital as his band. We all wanted to write songs as great the ones he wrote, like “(We Are) The Road Crew,” or ”Jailbait,” or “No Class.”
Lemmy was that effortlessly cool. And he kept going, long after he deserved to rest on his laurels and reflect on his glories. But Motörhead never stopped, and more importantly, the band never stopped being vital, cranking out great records right up to this year’s Bad Magic. Even with the glut of Lemmy’s health problems over the last few years (heart surgery in 2013, hematoma and exhaustion more recently), Herr Kilmister never stopped. Even though he vehemently insisted the opposite in “Ace of Spades,” there was a part in all of of us that wanted to pretend Lemmy would just keep going, on the road forever.
Lemmy, along with his Holy-Trinity-of-Rock thronemates Joey Ramone, and Malcolm Young, lived their lives as embodiments of rock and roll, in its warts-and-all bombastic glory. And the rock and roll they birthed and lived will never die.
In my minor capacity as a ‘music journalist’, I had the impossible, outrageous fortune to sit down with the man twice, in interviews, and he was as genuine as they come. I’m not one to get starstruck, but sitting in a small dressing room one-on-one with Lemmy was nerve-wracking. But, more gracious and friendly than he needed to be, the man poured me the first of a couple stiff drinks, lit me one of many of his smokes, and answered all of my questions completely forthrightly, jocularly, even – going well over our allotted time – then posed for pictures with me. He didn’t have to do any of that. It meant – it always will mean – the world to some goofball Motörhead fanboy who got lucky enough to talk to Lemmy Fucking Kilmister.
Now more than ever, it’s time. You pour yourself a Jack and coke, and you sit down that budding rocker you know – be it son, daughter, niece, nephew, family friend, whoever – and you play them the entire Overkill album. First. And then play them the rest of the Motörhead catalog. Teach them well.
And play it so fucking loud their teeth shake and the lawn dies.
Requiescat in pace, Lemmy. You will be missed.
— Kyle Harcött, deaf forever