Music fans woke up to a gloomy Tuesday morning as news came in that Lemmy Kilmister, the founding member of British heavy metal band Motorhead, died at the age of 70, two days after learning he had been diagnosed with cancer.
"There is no easy way to say this…our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made it’s way down the street, with his family. We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words...celebrate the life this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself. He would want exactly that," the band said on its Facebook page.
While many will celebrate Lemmy's 'heavy' music in tributes, my experience with his music was completely different.
Ian Fraser Kilmister, was born on Christmas Eve (December 24) 1945, in a small town in Burslem, Staffordshire and would go on to form one of the most well received Hard Rock and Metal bands in 1975, which would in turn release 23 full studio albums.
(Lemmy with the band. Image: Facebook/Motorhead Official)
Lemmy played in a few local bands in the early 1960s and even served as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix for a short time. He then went on to play with a band called 'Hawkwind' for three years, before he was kicked out after a drug bust and formed a band called 'Bastard', which would eventually become Motorhead - the title of the last song he wrote for his previous band.
A lot of tributes are already pouring in for the music giant as every angle about him is sure to be covered after this death, from straight news reports to headlines like '18 Great Quotes From the Motorhead Frontman'.
The Guardian reported that:
Motörhead’s loud, fast style was a pioneering force in heavy metal. Lemmy’s vocal growl and aggressive bass playing has been emulated by countless other bands, but the singer joked that he largely learned on the job, saying in 2012 that “the volume’s loud so nobody really notices that much".
There was no doubt that Lemmy was just as eccentric as portrayed in popular culture, saying things like, "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 as****es, they're just dead as****es!".
However, there was an entire side to Lemmy that often went unnoticed.
A tribute in the BBC talking about his 'loud music' said:
He was also something of a rock legend, his mutton-chop whiskers, facial wart and high microphone position making him one of the most recognisable figures in the business...Offstage he gained a reputation for a prodigious intake of drugs and alcohol as well as a sex life as frantic as his music.
However, what a lot of people don't realize, is that Lemmy was just as into Rock and Roll and the Blues, as he was into metal.
Being a semi-purist where music and technology is concerned, I first discovered Lemmy's 'other side,' when I stumbled on a song titled 'Whorehouse blues' - a very unlikely name for a song.
For the musically enlightened, the song follows the pattern of a standard 12-bar rhythm, most associated with the Blues, but also had a lot of Country, Rock and Metal embedded into it and Lemmy's versatility had my attention.
Though it seemed unlikely, Lemmy was also a big fan of rock and roll. Here's him brilliantly executing the Carl Perkins song 'Blue Suede Shoes', made famous by the likes of Elvis Presley.
So, while everyone talks about the loud, roaring, drug-intaking, speed junkie and his rock and roll lifestyle, also spare a thought to the honest and true bluesman that he was.
Signing off, Lemmy did not want to be portrayed as a 'nice guy', but he sure was. As Motorhead put it, Lemmy was "born to lose, but he lived to win."