After cancer claimed the man behind Motorhead, people remember his genius and warmth.
A friend pointed out that part of the brilliance of Motorhead was how they cut across audiences, particularly in the early years. Metalheads, punks, glam rockers, psychedelic freaks, the curious, the trendy, and miscellaneous weirdos all showed up to see Motorhead Mach I, with Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clarke and Philthy Animal Taylor. In Motorhead, Lemmy created something that was clearly metal (though he always denied it), but it was his own thing. The band had an efficiency that metal rarely had, and almost none of the technical bluster that frequently bogs metal down. Nothing quite like Motorhead existed before the band, nor did it have any soundalikes in its heyday. If any band picked up Motorhead’s blueprint since, I haven’t heard it.
For me, the beauty of Motorhead was the combination of a body of songs that added up to one long “Born to Lose” tattoo stretching out proudly from under the sleeve of a Harley T-shirt, and Lemmy’s swarm of bees basslines. On his Rickenbacker, that treble buzz gave Lemmy’s songs a wiry drive that characterized the band’s songs, no matter what the lineup.
Lemmy’s passing is sad because the world lost a rock star in a time that coughs them up with increasing reluctance. Few bands seem to aim high enough to aspire to rock stardom, and fewer can figure out how to make the music that might take them to that plateau. It seems likely that his hard living played some role in the cancer that finally killed him, but it’s nice to know that he was still drinking, taking speed, and larger than life until the end.
Here are some of the remembrances of Lemmy:
A good obituary from The Guardian:
While Motörhead’s songs were often a simple celebration of debauchery (Born to Raise Hell) or a general hatred of authority (Eat the Rich), he also addressed subjects such as war (Get Back in Line) and child abuse (Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me). Never afraid of taking a stand about any issue that interested or irritated him, Lemmy committed his views on a variety of subjects for posterity in his 2002 autobiography, White Line Fever, and in an eponymous documentary in 2010.
Tom Maxwell curated a video history for Slate.com of Lemmy dating back to his 1966 band, The Rockin’ Vickers:
By 1968, Lemmy has added lead vocals to his repertoire. Here he is with Sam Gopal, singing and playing lead on “Escalator.” The band was named after Malaysian-born Gopal, who played Indian tabla in lieu of drums. “If you like me living, baby,” Lemmy sings, “you’re gonna love me when I’m dead.”
VH-1's Eddie Trunk remembered interviewing Lemmy at Billboard:
I interviewed Lemmy the first time for TV around 2005 for VH1 Classic. This is way before That Metal Show which we had him on several times. He was the only artist that insisted on a call time after 3 p.m. and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the green room. When he showed he had a couple strippers with him and we got around to shooting maybe 5?
Alison Moyet: "I was 17 year old punk when I approached him after a blistering Motörhead set, & he was a gentleman. Always glad I said hello." Lars Ulrich: "Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We're forever grateful for all of your inspiration. RIP "
Director Penelope Spheeris remembers in Billboard interviewing Lemmy for The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years
I don't think it usually occurs to people that Lemmy was off the charts intelligent. Smart enough to know that it would be stupid to be jealous and that interpreting the rip-offs as a compliment was so much the higher road to travel. He was evolved and brilliant in many ways. Not only was his music unique -- but in my humble opinion, there's no other band remotely similar to Motörhead. His 'look' or 'style' was totally unique and original for decades, never went 'out of style.' Kind of a rock n' roll military, Tex-Mex, freaky combo. Genius, sexy and timeless.