News Lemmy Kilmister’s sudden death has rocked the metal world over the past couple of days. Fans have been pouring out their hearts over social media, relating stories from the road, concert experiences, and stories of how his music has shaped their lives. I’m here to add my voice to the crowd of mourners.
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.”
Just days ago, Lemmy was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given two to six months to live. “A doctor visited early Monday. Ozzy Osbourne would be coming by that day or the next. Lemmy spent hours on the video-game console, as Rainbow owner Mikael Maglieri paid a visit. Then Lemmy nodded off and never woke up again,” notes Rolling Stone.
I discovered Motörhead in the early days of my metal obsession, the same way I discovered many other bands at the time, by downloading albums from the bands featured on Metallica’s Garage Inc. album on Kazaa. I was struck instantly by how gritty and powerful the songs were, to me they fused the instrumentation and style of metal with an almost punk kind of sound. My favourite tunes have always been “Killed by Death”, “Hellraiser”, “Overkill”, “Eat the Rich”, “Stone Dead Forever” and “Cat Scratch Fever”.
When Motörhead announced an Auckland show in 2006 I booked my ticket immediately, even though it was in the university holidays and meant I had to get back to the city from my parents home six hours away, somehow. Luckily, some other friends from down home were going to, so we made a road trip of it.
The show was intense. To see someone like Lemmy who had for so long only existed in cameo performances and badly pixelated Kazaa footage come alive on stage was a special treat. I remember being mushed at the front while a wall of Marshell amps went up, completely closing in the stage and turning the St. James’ spacious stage into the size of a small club venue. The main smashing culprit was an exceptionally large, exceptionally smelly dude who was right behind me, pushing against me so that I was kind of enveloped in his rolls of flab. He spent the entire concert yelling, “Turn up Lemmy’s bass AMP-LI-FI-CATION!” We named him the Ogre and I bet he is having a real big cry today.
We met him around the back of the venue afterward. He didn’t say much but was charming all the same. My friend even kissed his wart.
I saw him again at Wacken in 2011, and once again their show was magic. Lemmy manages to command attention in such a way that even on an enormous stage with only two other band members behind him, he looked perfectly at ease. His words that night – speaking of how grateful they were to play such a special festival again – were humbling and heartfelt.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for someone who has not only written and performed such a huge amount of incredible songs, but has been a vital voice of reason in the metal scene over the years. Lemmy supported up-and-coming artists, spoke about many different aspects of his life openly and candidly in interviews, and wasn’t afraid to become a parody of himself in things like Brutal Legend. He never seemed to get caught up in drama and pursued his desire for a good time with a relentless fixation I definitely admire. Lemmy lived on his own terms, and he often joked that he should be invincible now for all the drugs and booze in his system.
Sadly for all of us, Lemmy was not immortal. But his spirit lives on in his music and his legacy. Thank you. I am raising a bourbon in your honour.
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