"Lemmy" Kilmister, the legendary frontman of heavy rock band Motörhead, has died at the age of 70. One of rock and roll's great survivors despite a hard-partying lifestyle, he inspired generations of fellow musicians.
Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, the epitome of the hard-drinking rock and roller, recorded and toured with Motörhead until the end.
Kilmister died on Monday, just days after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and ahead of a 20-date, one month European tour scheduled to kick off in late January. His death comes a month after that of Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, the band's former drummer, who was 61.
"We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren't words," Motörhead said on its Facebook page. "Play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind [his earlier group] loud, play Lemmy's music loud. Have a drink or few. Share stories. Celebrate the life this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself. He would want exactly that."
Fans and fellow musicians reacted with shock. Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne, who called him "a warrior and a legend," said on Twitter that he had "lost one of my best friends."
American heavy metal band Metallica credited Kilmister for its inspiration.
And British rockers Judas Priest thanked Kilmister for the music, the shows and the tours, adding that "words about Lemmy can never be enough."
Antichrist of rock
The gravel-voiced frontman and bassist for the iconic British heavy metal band, who turned 70 on Christmas Eve, was one of rock and roll's great survivors despite a hard-partying lifestyle of booze, cigarettes, women, drugs and relentless touring. He used to drink a bottle of whiskey a day with cola, but in recent years had switched to vodka and orange juice to help manage his diabetes.
With his mutton chop sideburns, long hair, black cowboy hat and shirt, Kilmister cultivated the image of the bad guy, one you wouldn't want to meet on a dark street at night. "If Motörhead moved next door to you, your lawn would die," he once said, according to the "Rough Guide to Rock."
Kilmister was born in Stoke-on-Trent in central England on December 24, 1945. His father left his mother when Kilmister was still young. His earliest memory: standing in the playpen, clinging firmly to the bars and shouting at the top of his voice. "I must have been rehearsing," he once said.
He was a roadie for the legendary US guitarist Jimi Hendrix and a member of the seminal psychedelic band Hawkwind in the early 1970s. In 1975 he founded Motörhead. Dubbed the world's loudest band, it was first known as Bastard, but after the group's manager told them they wouldn't go far with that name, they opted for Motörhead. Kilmister was particularly drawn to the "ö" - it was so menacing, so German.
Winning a Grammy in 2005 for best metal performance, Motörhead released more than 20 studio albums. Their first hit was "Bomber," in 1979, and the band is perhaps best known for its 1980 anthem "Ace of Spades."
Role model for metalheads
Kilmister found it incredible that the band had lasted for four decades and was amused that Motörhead were often characterized as the godfathers of heavy metal. "We were never a metal band," he said. "We're a rock 'n' roll band."
Nonetheless, many fellow musicians have been inspired by Motörhead's fast rock, especially those in the metal scene. Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica, founded Motörhead's first fan club in the US. And "Bomber" is seen as the foundation stone of thrash metal, a particularly fast brand of heavy metal.
The Foo Fighters paid tribute to Kilmister in their2011 video for "White Limo,"
with the legend himself appearing behind the wheel of a white stretch limousine, smoking and drinking whisky while driving through the city.
Despite various ailments, Kilmister was still touring with the band in recent months. Motörhead was due to perform in Paris the day after the November 13 terrorist attacks and had often played in the Bataclan concert hall, the site of the deadliest attack. The concert was ultimately canceled.
"I would have played anyway," he said at the time. "If they [the terrorists] stop you, then they win. And they're not going to beat me," he added, using some choice phrases.
Kilmister never married, saying one had to choose between home life and the road, and he left behind an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia. He often said he liked the style, not the belief system behind it, often pointing out that the Nazis "simply had better uniforms."
"That's what I always said I wanted to be remembered for, for being honest. Nothing else is worth a damn," he once said.