When I read the words…I didn’t believe it. Had to be a hoax. That guy will never die, I thought to myself as I read through posts from a few friends. Things got more alarming when I realized guys like Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Ozzy and many of musician friends were posting about him too. It was the truth, Lemmy died.
The iconic frontman, bassist and founder of Motörhead had just celebrated his 70th birthday. I think he surprised himself living to that age, and he would want us to laugh about it too, wouldn’t he? Ian Fraser ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, 1945-2015, 70 years of pure beauty.
It was just this past summer that I read he was told he had to switch from Jack & coke to Vodka. That didn’t even stop him! From The Guardian:
“He has changed his lifestyle – he’s down to a pack of fags a week, and has swapped from Jack and Coke to vodka and orange, apparently to help with his diabetes, – though his assistant wonders whether swapping from one 40% spirit topped with sugar to another 40% spirit topped with sugar is really going to help. “I like orange juice better,” he says. “So, Coca-Cola can fuck off.” A full bottle of Absolut is put in front of him for the interview, and a full bottle of Jack Daniels is given to me – which seems a bit optimistic, given Lemmy sets an interview limit of 25 minutes, which he will extend by five minutes if he likes the questions (we get up to 33 minutes).”
Here’s a quote that summarizes his thoughts on death, as published by Classic Rock Magazine December 6th, 2015 in an article titled, “I’m Sick of Being Asked When I’m Going to Die:”
“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.”
He always had something to say about organized religion too, and for that, let’s read through the pages of the BOOK OF LEMMY, my kind of church!
Here are some other memorable Lemmy quotes, thanks to Rolling Stone:
In his book, White Line Fever, Lemmy even had a few for those individuals — like his fans and bandmates — who might be searching for them now: “People don’t become better when they’re dead; you just talk about them as if they are. But it’s not true! People are still assholes, they’re just dead assholes!”
“The only interesting thing about religion is how many people it’s slaughtered.” – via Louder Than War
“Religion is stupid anyway. I mean, a virgin gets pregnant by a ghost! You would never get away with that in a divorce court, would you?” – via Radio Metal
“Apparently people don’t like the truth, but I do like it; I like it because it upsets a lot of people. If you show them enough times that their arguments are bullshit, then maybe just once, one of them will say, ‘Oh! Wait a minute — I was wrong.’ I live for that happening. Rare, I assure you.” – via White Line Fever
“As you go through life’s rich tapestry, you realize that most people you meet aren’t fit to shine your shoes. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. A good friend is someone who’d hide you if you were on the run for murder. How many of them do you know?” – via The Independent
“I don’t understand people who believe that if you ignore something, it’ll go away. That’s completely wrong — if it’s ignored it gathers strength. Europe ignored Hitler for 20 years. As a result he slaughtered a quarter of the world!” – viaWhite Line Fever
“I don’t think it’s fair to be waving your dick around when people are minding their own business and might not want to see it.” – via White Line Fever
“If you didn’t do anything that wasn’t good for you it would be a very dull life. What are you gonna do? Everything that is pleasant in life is dangerous.” – via The Independent
“If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet.” – via the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
“People have forgotten that sex is fun. It’s the most fun you can have without laughing. People have forgotten that. It’s all deadly serious. AIDS. You can get gonorrhea from a blowjob. So what? That’s the risk you have to take. If you’re going to have sex, fuckin’ have sex and be happy about it. Don’t be looking over your shoulder all the time. It ruins everything.” – via Rolling Stone
“There was a magazine in England who said I screwed 2,000 women and I didn’t; I said 1,000. When you think about it, it isn’t that unreasonable.” – via Spin
“People just rip each other to shreds over the years. Nothing kills a relationship like commitment.” – via Spin
“This entire generation seems to have become pussies, you know? Nobody seems to enjoy themselves much anymore.They are all knocking each other down for enjoying themselves.” – via a 1988 interview with David L. Wilson
“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.” – via Classic Rock
“I come from a broken home. I broke it.”
“All I learned at school was how to dodge fighting, and how to smoke. And what girls’ tits looked like.”
“I like to be loud and shout and run around. Rock ‘n’ roll should be Saturday night every night.”
“I like girls. That’s the only reason I’m in the music business – I discovered you could get women to take their clothes off if you had a guitar. And they come off a lot faster if you can play it.”
“My ethic is: ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ You can be as careful as you want, but you’re going to die anyway, so why not have fun?”
“I know, intellectually, there was a time when I wasn’t in Motörhead. But I can’t actually remember it.”
“I get to travel all over the world, I get to sleep with women of all colours and religious persuasions and I get to play the music I like and make people happier than they were when I arrived. It’s a good way to make a living. You find me a better one.”
“I’ve got what’s called a Low Tonal Register, which, loosely translated, means I sound like a gorilla on Valium.”
“Motörhead are supposed to make people wonder what’s the next bad thing that will happen to them. Life is about brief periods of bliss, followed by long periods of depression, angst and brutality.”
“It’s not that I take pride in being unfashionable. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. I do it rather well now. I’ve been practising for a long time.”
“I don’t get hangovers. You have to stop drinking to get a hangover. Why stop?”
“I don’t agree with any politician. I think they’re all c–ts.”
“I was Jimi Hendrix’s roadie. My rock’n’roll credentials are fucking impeccable.”
“Integrity is everything to me. I will not die ashamed. I will live on my deathbed knowing that I gave it my best shot, and everything else is meaningless to me.”
“If there is a God he hasn’t been paying attention. He should retire and hand over to a younger man, because he’s making a real bollocks of everything.”
“I don’t want to be a fucking legend. I want to be a competitor.”
“I only care about my band. All the rest of you can go fuck yourselves.”
“Most people get to clock out at the end of their day’s work. I’m Lemmy twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.”
“I am rock and roll, and rock and roll is me.”
Inside Lemmy’s last days, courtesy of Rolling Stone:
Two weekends before his death, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead was celebrating an unlikely milestone on the Sunset Strip: his coming 70th birthday. He looked frail but regal in his black cavalry jacket and hat, watching from an upstairs balcony at the Whisky a Go Go as Slash, Billy Idol, Sebastian Bach and other famous rock & roll comrades paid tribute to him onstage.
The emailed invitation had called for a night of music, “chit-chat and general all-around merriment” on December 13th. Former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum was the private party’s host and musical director, leading a crowd of prominent performers from hard rock and punk.
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich flew in for the event, and sat with Lemmy much of the night. Standing onstage, guitarist Zakk Wylde wore a denim vest over a black Motörhead T-shirt and repeated the old joke about certain ageless and indestructible rockers, lamenting about “what kind of world we’re going to leave for Lemmy and Keith Richards.”
Lemmy himself had just flown in from Europe the day before and was worn out. His right hand trembled and he rested a walking stick across his knees as friends and fans wished him well. Near the end of the night, OFF! guitarist Dimitri Coats leaned in to say hello and remind Lemmy of a 2003 night drinking and gaming together at the Crazy Girls strip club in Hollywood.
Lemmy shook his hand and asked with a smile, “Did I win?”
He was a winner in rock & roll for many of his 70 years, though his sudden death from cancer on Monday was a shock to both fans around the world and those closest to the iconic Motörhead singer-bassist. Two weeks ago, the band finished a winter European tour, closing their final performance in Berlin on December 11th with the crushing hard-rock fan favorite “Overkill.” They planned to be back in Europe in January.
For the last two years, health problems weighed heavily on the trio, beginning with Lemmy abruptly cutting short a 2013 concert in Wacken, Germany. He suffered from diabetes and a heart arrhythmia, and he soon underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator, but he returned to the road as always, with two acclaimed performances at Coachella the next year, followed by tour dates around the world, and a new album, Bad Magic, released this past summer.
There were some modest lifestyle changes: Lemmy cut back from his more than two packs of cigarettes a day to one pack a week. And after at least four decades of a half-gallon of Jack Daniels every day, he switched to vodka and orange juice and just four or five drinks a day. He still enjoyed his daily speed.
In recent weeks, Lemmy began to slow down. “He did no more soundchecks. He wouldn’t do interviews. He couldn’t do anything,” says Todd Singerman, who managed the band for 24 years. But Lemmy performed as scheduled. “To really think of what energy and the balls that took to still play shows for the fans, to do the last fucking show two weeks ago, and then drop. That’s like a Rocky story to me. This is courage at his best. He was dying. He didn’t know it, but his body must have felt it. He had nothing left.”
The death last month of former Motörhead drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor hit Lemmy especially hard. Singerman suspected Lemmy’s reduced energy offstage was related to depression over losing friends and his ongoing health issues. But Lemmy was clearly still looking forward to the birthday party at the Whisky, on the Sunset Strip that he’s called home for decades.
Sorum, who once filled in on 15 dates for Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee on a 2009 U.S. tour, called in the talent for the party, which included current and former members of Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Velvet Revolver and others. Slash performed Motörhead’s “(We Are) the Road Crew” with members of Anthrax, and Steve Vai ripped open a Hendrix lead on “Foxy Lady.” The long night ended with a punk rock set with Idol, Sorum, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, GN’R bassist Duff McKagan and Cult guitarist Billy Duffy. There were affectionate video messages from Iggy Pop, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Def Leppard, Gene Simmons, Tom Morello and others.
Showgirls danced on the floor between acts, and young women strolled the club to give away free candy, CDs of Lemmy’s rockabilly band the Head Cat and a sex toy called the Motörhead “Pleasure Bullet.” (The sales pitch: “Do it hard, do it fast — do it loud!”)
“They were there for him,” says Sorum of the musicians and audience. “He really appreciated that in true Lemmy style — he wasn’t the kind of guy to jump up and down. If you saw a smile on his face, you knew you were getting somewhere with him. Down deep inside, he’s a very sweet, kind, gentle soul.”
Late in the evening, Lemmy’s bass rig was rolled out as the Head Cat set up for a couple of songs, but Lemmy never made it down the catwalk to the stage. Sorum went up to say hello. “I said, ‘I hope you’re enjoying yourself,’ and he said, ‘Oh, it’s fucking great.'”
Two days later, Lemmy complained of chest pains and went to the emergency room, but was released the next day. Doctors found no heart trouble. Singerman and others decided he needed a brain scan “because his speech was getting bad,” he says. There were concerns that he’d had a stroke.
“Why is he not talking much? He was slurring really bad,” says Singerman. “We took him for the X-rays and they said, ‘Oh, my God, there’s stuff all over his brain and his neck.’ On Saturday, two days ago, the doctor came by the house, brought the results and told us all that he has two to six months to live.”
It was cancer, and Lemmy reacted calmly. “He took it better than all of us. His only comment was, ‘Oh, only two months, huh?’ The doctor goes, ‘Yeah, Lem, I don’t want to bullshit you. It’s bad, and there’s nothing anyone can do. I would be lying to you if I told you there was a chance.'”
Singerman was inclined to keep the diagnosis private and announce only that Lemmy was gravely ill and needed to be left alone. “He was like, ‘No, no. You go ahead and put out a press release. I want people to know it was cancer. It’s a bad thing and they should know it.’ That’s how he felt.”
Plans were to put out a press release after informing close friends and family. Nurses were hired to be at his condo in shifts. A morphine kit arrived in preparation of coming pain. A favorite video-game console at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Strip that Lemmy loved to play at the corner of the bar was brought over.
Singerman and others began calling friends and family. Lemmy told his partners in Motörhead on Sunday night, and travel plans were being made for them to visit immediately.
“Here’s the shocker for me and everyone else: He’s been to a thousand doctors and hospitals throughout the world, but nobody caught this,” says Singerman. “To be told you have terminal cancer with all the blood tests he’s taken in his life and everything else? It’s very hard to grasp that. It’s not like he had a fucking chance here. This was outright: ‘You got no more than six months.'”
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.
“Mikael called to say, ‘My God, he just died right in front of me,'” Singerman says.
The reaction was immediate on social media from Lemmy’s many friends across generations of rock. Kiss singer-bassist Gene Simmons emailed Rolling Stone a cell-phone snapshot of him and Lemmy backstage somewhere in the recent past: “Behind the Man and the Legend was a kind man who went out of his way to make you feel special,” Simmons wrote. “The Lemmy I knew and loved always held out his hand to help new bands. I will miss him.”