‘You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!’
You hear that? That silence? Like a deafening roar that’s been with us for decades has suddenly stopped? It’s a sad day indeed when the world learns that even legends can die.
The official Motorhead Facebook page informed us of the news last night:
The term ‘one of a kind’ is bandied around a lot, but that is exactly what Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister was. The history of rock ‘n’ roll is the story of Lemmy — he was there when The Beatles performed at the Cavern Club; he roadied for Jimi Hendrix; he helped lay the foundation stones for what would become the church of heavy metal.
Starting his musical career proper in early 70’s space rock band, Hawkwind, Lemmy helped shape their sound with his songwriting and unique, aggressive bass playing. Kicked out for ‘doing the wrong drugs’, he formed the band Bastard, which soon became Motorhead. “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor joined Lemmy on guitar and drums respectively, and one of the most influential bands in rock history came to be. Effortlessly straddling the divide between punk and metal, Motorhead paved the way for thrash and speed metal; the line-ups changed over the years, but Lemmy and Motorhead kept playing and recording essentially up until his death last night from a cancer that he got diagnosed with on Boxing Day. He follows Phil Taylor, who passed away earlier this year.
If the phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ still has any meaning — if it ever had any meaning — then Lemmy was the embodiment of it, through and through. Those of us who play music and meet other musicians from all genres and across all styles know: Lemmy was admired everywhere. The man lived a life free of compromise and half-measures. His integrity and his belief in knowing that what he was doing was right — that making music he loved and playing it for fans that loved it more; as well as his iconoclastic nature, quick wit, and deep distrust of authority — imbued him with an aura that isn’t seen very often in this world. And for those of us who subscribe to the belief that there is nothing finer in the world than a giant Marshall stack, a distorted guitar, and a guttural roar — well, there are no words for this loss. Perhaps it’s best to turn to Lemmy himself, who never had difficulty expressing himself:
“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.”
If you haven’t seen the 2010 documentary about the man, then do so:
Lemmy’s friends expressed their sadness on Twitter:
Lost one of my best friends, Lemmy, today. He will be sadly missed. He was a warrior and a legend. I will see you on the other side.— Ozzy Osbourne (@OzzyOsbourne) December 29, 2015
Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We're forever grateful for all of your inspiration. RIP pic.twitter.com/WC1csn5F5x— Metallica (@Metallica) December 29, 2015
There's nothing we could write here that can live up to the mighty life you lived. You are Rock N Roll. Warrior… https://t.co/Rbn22WFL5y— Anthrax (Band) (@Anthrax) December 29, 2015
Farewell Lemmy. I love you brother.— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) December 29, 2015
Just got the sad news about the loss of Lemmy from MOTORHEAD….. RIP "Raise Hell Homie…"— ICE T (@FINALLEVEL) December 29, 2015
You know what? I take back what I said at the start. It’s days like this that you learn that legends like Lemmy never die. So join me in following the band’s advice and, ‘play Motorhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD.
Have a drink or few.’
You don’t have to tell me twice, guys. Cheers. And rest in noise, Lemmy, you complete and utter legend.