We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll.
Nothing was more important to Lemmy Kilmister than music. Even as his body started to fail him, he went out there and recorded new music and gave his fans everything he had. He was a man of integrity, loyalty, gratefulness, talent, and joie de vivre.
But what most of us think of when we hear his name is fucking loud-ass, dirty motherfucking rock and roll. Lemmy loved booze, drugs, and titties, but he loved music most of all. He lived the rock and roll life of his dreams. He did every single thing he wanted to do, and he never compromised anything just to make a buck. What an excellent example of a man who lived by his own code and artistic vision.
I don’t have to spend a lot of time telling you how many artists he has influenced. Those of us who love him and Motörhead can hear it and see it and smile about it. He may not be a household name for some people, but true music fans worship Lemmy. I first saw him on an episode of The Young Ones when I was a kid. I was fascinated by the way he stood at the microphone, his head tilted up so far I thought his neck would snap. His voice was exceedingly gravelly and brilliant, his physical appearance that of a dude who just got up and went to his friend’s garage to play some music. He clearly didn’t give a shit about anything but his music.
My appreciation for Motörhead increased years later when I became a huge fan of Dave Grohl, who is often pictured wearing a Motörhead t-shirt. I have always been interested in listening to the music my favorite musicians were inspired by, and at the time the only Motörhead song I knew was “Ace of Spades,” so I bought a few of their albums and was quickly hooked! There were other artists I listened to at the time that I didn’t really get into, but with Motörhead all it took was hearing another song of theirs and that was it. I have not looked back.
As I have listened to and read more about Lemmy since his passing, I’ve learned that what I love about him is exactly what I love about Dave Grohl: He was a music fan before anything else. That showed in everything he did. He could appreciate every kind of music, and that’s how I look at being a fan. You can have a favorite genre, but for Dave, and Lemmy, and me, whatever sounds good is our favorite thing in the world. Dave gave a really emotional eulogy at Lemmy’s memorial, and he perfectly captured not only why Lemmy was important to him, but to me and millions of other fans, and why he was so happy and successful in his 70 years walking this earth:
He’s the one true rock ‘n’ roller that bridged my love of AC/DC and
Sabbath and Zeppelin with my love of GBH and The Ramones and Black Flag.
Lemmy really was a bridge. We often assume that artists are only interested in music that sounds like the music they perform, but that’s a simplistic view of how music actually works—and of how being a fan actually works. Artists in all media take from different places to create their work, whether it’s obvious to the casual observer or not. You don’t have to hear it or see it to know it’s there.
I never saw Motörhead in concert, but I did see Lemmy perform at the Chuck Berry tribute concert the Rock Hall did in 2012. Chuck has always been my main man, because without him I would not be the rock and roll fan I am. I was ridiculously excited to see him in person, and when they announced the lineup of other artists who would be performing, I was beyond thrilled that Lemmy was going to be there! Now I knew that we had something really important in common. That concert was one of the greatest nights of my life.
After Lemmy died, I saw this great picture of him sitting in a bar with a bottle of Jack and a cigarette. I was a big drinker many years ago, and Jack was my best friend. When that picture came up among the hundreds of photos of him posted on Facebook the day his death was announced, it made me happy. There was one more thing we had in common, and when I reposted it I said that he and I would have had a lot of fun together and how I would have given him a run for his money. All of the personal stories I have heard about him since make me even more sorry that we never met. He was such a regular guy, yet so huge and inspiring.
Thinking of Lemmy’s life reminds me of a quote from the end of This is Spinal Tap when the one band member is asked what his philosophy is: “Have a good time all the time.” Lemmy lived that. He had triumphs and tragedies like everyone else, but the one thing he didn’t have is regrets.