Lemmy is dead.
Good grief, I never thought I’d write that.
I’m inconsolable. We just did a bit on the 91X Almanac about Lemmy’s 70th birthday four days ago. Now he’s gone. According to the initial news stories he was killed by a particularly aggressive form of cancer. But would you expect Lemmy’s cancer to be anything less than aggressive?
Like Scott Weiland’s death a few weeks ago, the internet began to chatter with an initial posting this afternoon, but I’ve learned over several years of internet rumors and employing some kind of journalistic method that you wait for a confirmation of the story from a reliable source, or you confirm it yourself.
If you’ve studied journalism, or simply read All the President’s Men, you want to get at least two sources, but three is better. They have to go on the record. These days it’s tougher with second-tier news outlets or clickbait sites picking up internet rumors by way of built-in coding ‘bots seeking stories. But the confirmations came, and the news was true.
As far as Lemmy’s legacy goes, if you’re a Motörhead fan you know and love the music and know Lemmy and the band could not function without each other. The band’s 40-year ride – formed after Lemmy was kicked out of Hawkwind, his first band, in 1975 – is as impressive and real as Lemmy’s long-standing attitude: rock and roll is not about looking back.
The songs and albums are endless, and great: Bomber, Overkill, the landmark live album No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith, Iron Fist, Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron, and they even got Michael Palin from Monty Python to deliver a faux sermon to close out the first side of “if that’s all there is, it ain’t so bad” Rock ‘n’ Roll.
But in one odd departure, Lemmy slowed Motörhead down for one number in 1991, which turned out to be the title song for the band’s 1916 album.
Written about the British disaster in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War, Lemmy offered up these touching lyrics for the dead – tying together much of the albeit tongue-in-cheek military gear the band often sported in one very real and tender moment:
“Sixteen years old when I went to the war, to fight for a land fit for heroes. God on my side, and a gun in my hand – chasing my days down to zero. And I marched and I fought and I bled, and I died and I never did get any older. But I knew at the time, that a year in the line – was a long enough life for a soldier.”
Both my grandfathers survived the battlefields of World War One, so those lyrics mean a little something extra for me.
Thank you for everything Lemmy: the music, the attitude, the moles. The music Motörhead made was thunderous, dangerous, hilarious and bone-crushingly swaggering as anything that came down the pike in the wake of Elvis. In the late 70s it was no small feat to bring a pub of rockers and punks together, but Lemmy and Motörhead did it, and never thought about how. “It’s a good laugh in’nit?”
May the cards be right, may the leather be black, may the bomber keep flying and may the road crew never get lost along the way. RIP Lemmy Kilmister.