It was inevitable; yet, the shock is real and it hurts a lot. Lemmy Kilmister, the invincible one, is dead. He was the frontman of Motörhead, the power behind early Hawkwind, and a legendary and prolific rocker with the approachability of a gentle soul — always happy to sign an autograph or take a picture or simply shoot the shit with his fans, which he treated like friends. He didn’t just lead the archetypal, fast lifestyle of rocker: He was the archetype. Except with a giant heart.
The rock and metal communities are in mourning, with many taking to social media to share photos, stories, and their favorite Motörhead songs. Lemmy was universally beloved across all scenes, from extreme metal to hardcore to indie rock. As Henry Rollins recounted in the 2010 documentary, Lemmy (a poignant and truthful look into the latter years of his life), Motörhead was “long hair” rock and roll that even the hardcore kids could listen to. It was the attitude, the rush of Lemmy’s bass riffs (and his fuzzy tone), and the speed of the music that appealed to so many. “Ace of Spades” is one of the most enduring and recognizable songs of all time, an anthem for the ages and Lemmy himself (“I don’t wanna live forever”). But beyond his music, what was it about Lemmy that made him such an inspiring figure to so many?
He never cast himself as a perfect or better man. He was open about his trivial past with women (he slept with many), and he wasn’t afraid of tossing in a lascivious lyrical phrase. Strip clubs were his haunts. In this way, he was a rocker of his era, but an honest one. True to himself and without pretentions. It’s an admirable trait rarely observed in our heroes. If there was an air of superstardom surrounding Lemmy, it is only because we projected it upon him. Lemmy never carried himself that way. He simply loved playing rock and roll. He lived for it. Everything else was merely passing the time.
Even if he wouldn’t have considered himself a proper role model, he inspired us to be ourselves through and through, to love and live what we create. He followed that path his whole life, down darker roads, as well. Substance abuse and drinking were also a part of who he was, and he never downplayed that, either. It is inappropriate to glorify or somehow find his alcoholism and addictions endearing or cool, but they were indelibly a part of his character. Though personable, Lemmy was also a private individual. He had his demons, and he had his vices. He also had the body to endure it all until he was 70. Drink and drugs were how he got by. He would make no apologies about it. He wasn’t perfect. Nobody is.
We can all take solace in the fact that Lemmy lived a full life, playing rock and roll until death took him. Just as he wished it. “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.” Behind him he leaves not just a library of music, but a lasting legacy as one of rock’s greatest ambassadors and a friend to all. There will never be another Lemmy, and that’s why it hurts so much. But he wouldn’t want us to go on moaning about it. Tonight, I will do as he would. I’m going to fix up a jack and coke and blast my favorite Motörhead jam, “I Got Mine”. Lemmy was never one to look back. Neither should we. Let’s celebrate his life for all the joy it brought to so many people.