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Quietus: Lemmy – Killed by Death

Emma Connolly

Emma Connolly

Emma lives in England. Ace the dog keeps her feet and heart warm while she writes about music and culture.
Emma Connolly

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Killed by Death: the Ace of Spades, wearing leather jeans and shades, a legend.

On Sunday 13th December 2015, an array of metal-edged musicians gathered at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles, California. Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, Anthrax, the Sex Pistols, Black Label Society and The Cult were all represented, along with Glenn Danzig and Billy Idol. They rocked out to celebrate the 70th birthday of Ian “Lemmy” Fraser Kilmister, born December 24, 1945.  His management wrote, Lemmy was overwhelmed with surprise appearances of friends from all over the globe who made the trip to LA. He kicked back and took in all the well wishes along with the show his friends prepared in his honor. For once in a long time he was not working and could truly relax and visit with his closest friends and stay away from the cameras and microphones”

Lemmy was the voice, image and pure rock essence of Motörhead. On Boxing Day, (December 26th) he received a cancer diagnosis, and just two days later he was gone. In retrospect, it was as though Lemmy had attended his own wake. This would probably have pleased him.

Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead

Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead | Credit: Jessica Branstetter [adapted color]

Growing up in North Wales, the primal screams of Rock and Roll reached out to young Ian – already nicknamed ‘Lemmy’ – Kilmister. The sounds of the originators came echoing across the Atlantic, and the rocking spirits of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Little Richard reached deep into his soul. After stints in some minor bands, as Jimi Hendrix’s roadie and a brief sojourn with Hawkwind, Lemmy’s connection to the vital essence of rock finally found fertile ground when he created his own band, Motörhead, which he fronted on bass and vocals. In 1980 the band secured their place in rock and roll history with their fourth album and the track ‘Ace of Spades’, a driven, intense paean to gambling with cards and life.

Motorhead, Ace of Spades Christmas Special

The Ace of Spades limited edition Christmas Special, 1980

Over the subsequent decades, the lineup of Motörhead changed but Lemmy remained its anchor, an unmistakable figure, who, was soon as legendary for his rock lifestyle as for his music, which nonetheless he pursued with a relentless work ethic. Although Motörhead are frequently regarded as heavy metal, Lemmy had a broad musical knowledge and a strong instinct for authenticity, and in fact the band drew influences from and contributed to a range of sounds and attitudes, not least punk and rockabilly. In 2011 he reformed the rockabilly supergroup HeadCat with Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) and Danny B. Harvey (Rockats), releasing the album Walk the Walk…Talk the Talk, which covered songs from the dawn of Rock’n’Roll such as Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’ and Eddie Cochran’s ‘Something Else’, as well as two original compositions.

Despite ill health, including an irregular heartbeat that in 2013 required surgery to implant a medical device to keep his heart beating, a hematoma, and severe gastric illness, Lemmy refused to stop rocking. Motörhead played Glastonbury in 2015 and released a studio album, Bad Magic. He was forced to cancel some tour dates but a new video, ‘When The Sky Comes Looking For You’ was released on 18th December. The Motörhead themes of gambling, hard living and death manifest remained undimmed.

Lemmy spent his life staring Death in the eye. He never stopped rocking, acknowledged no possibility of changing gears, and embodied the words that were tattooed on his arm since 1979 and iced on his 70th birthday cake; ‘Born to Lose, Live to Win’. In live versions of Ace of Spades, Lemmy would frequently alter the lyrics to “I don’t want to live forever / But, apparently I am”. Eventually, he was Killed by Death, but as he knew better than most of us, legends are larger than life and do not succumb as mortals. In the pantheon of Rock’n’Roll, he is immortal.

“You’re only clinging on to life by the skin of your teeth anyway.” – Ian “Lemmy” Fraser Kilmister

A Facebook Page has been created by The Official Motörhead site to share stories and leave condolences. Click here to visit.

Motörhead set list

Motörhead set list, March 4 2011, The World is Yours Tour. House of Blues Atlantic City, NJ. | Vladimir

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