December 28, 2015 was the last day on Earth for the Motörhead commander. A man that transformed his life in a reckless tribute to Rock ‘n’ Roll
We’d been well aware for months, maybe years, that Lemmy Kilmister’s heroic constitution was giving up the ghost. We lost count of the Motörhead concerts cancelled at the last moment because the bassist-singer was indisposed. But every time, there was an announcement, sarcastic, even a bit macabre, to play it down: «Don’t worry guys, Lemmy will be on his feet before long. He can’t die. With all the whisky he’s drunk, the cigarettes he’s smoked and the drugs he’s done, at this stage he’s a genetically modified organism. Nothing can touch him. Not even the Grim Reaper.». But death won at last and December 28, 2015 he left us with the utmost dignity, telling nobody (perhaps he didn’t even realise himself…) that a tumour was eating away at his brain and neck.
Lemmy never breathed a word about it, preferring to play to the last on the slot machines he loved so well (it seems that he even had one at his bedside, moved there from his beloved Rainbow Bar & Grill, to keep him company in his final moments). We heard about his “last days” from manager Todd Singerman (who has been with Motörhead since 1992), how he had a lovely birthday on Christmas Eve at Whisky A Go Go, one of Los Angeles’ favourite hotspots. «His friends were all there, and we all drank, played and joked around till the small hours. Then a couple of days later he told me he wasn’t feeling so well: we went to the hospital, they did some routine exams and that’s when we got the news…» . And what dreadful news.
The diagnosis left no room for hope for the whiskered rocker from Stoke-on-Trent: terminal cancer, six months at the outside. Kilmister was philosophical about it, told his manager to put the news out at the beginning of the new year. Singerman, still overwhelmed, begged him to reconsider, to wait, to maybe try some experimental cure… But Lemmy was having none of it. He wanted his fans to know, but only after the New Year. New Year’s Eve was a night for partying, letting it all out, worrying about nothing. No time for being sad. And no time to have your head bursting with bad omens.
Cruel fate took him a few days before, preventing us from raising a glass together. And turned the New Year toast into a ritual in his honour with people raising a glass of Jack and Coke instead of the usual bubbly. Millions of glasses raised in honour of a man who, after a long stint with the space rock of Hawkwind, gifted us mortals with the stainless steel cult of Motörhead: a total of twenty-two albums throughout their long career (the last album ‘Bad Magic’, came out on 28th August last, just four months before the tragedy), some of which are absolute must haves. (‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’, it goes without saying, but there are also the comeback albums like ‘Bastards’, ‘We Are Motörhead’ or ‘Motörizer’) and a sound that has always been so beyond fashion that it seems eternal, hard as stone and crystalline.
In fact Motörhead was a band that didn’t just play “heavy metal” and Lemmy himself – though he appreciated the royalties it brought in every month – never considered ‘Ace of Spades’ to be their best song. If you don’t believe me, take a look at his brilliantly funny biography ‘White Line Fever’, penned in 2002 with journalist friend Janiss Garza. Besides, he never made any bones about it: « Asking me about ‘Ace of Spades’? Great track. But then we moved on. We did better than that…».
And the better was a sort of ultra-distorted British blues which frequently deviated into ’50s rock ‘n’ roll (his great love) or primordial punk (which was the same thing). His Hollywood funeral (broadcast live on YouTube and watched by some 230 thousand mourners!) was attended by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich, Slash, the wrestler Triple H and Motörhead drummer, Mikkey Dee.
His adopted son Paul Inder read a few heartfelt words: «Travel well my dear father. You are back on the road for a longest tour to the great gig in the sky. We will never forget you. I love you!». Short and to the point. Just like Lemmy Kilmister would have wanted it.