“I always knew the only way was never to live beyond today. They proved me right. They proved me wrong. But, they could never last this long.” -Lemmy
The king is dead, dashed from the world in his latter years, leaving a void, a hollowness in a world where he was a juggernaut. Lemmy “Ian” Kilmister died at the age of 70 on Dec. 28, 2015, a few days after his birthday, a few weeks after his band Motorhead’s final tour and forty years after he started a rock group that would inspire millions of rabid fans for decades.
Lem’s memorial service in Hollywood on Saturday, Jan. 9 was broadcasted live on the internet, as the international Motorhead family gathered to watch the final tribute to their beloved leader and dear friend.
In Denver, TRVE Brewing on South Broadway was the place where many went to watch the service. It’s a heavy metal themed, craft brewery bar – as good of place as any for such an event. The deep, skinny barroom was packed as the afternoon memorial began. There were plenty of leather jackets, Motorhead shirts and burly gents with beards in attendance. I was at the far end of the bar, right in front of the one television in the whole place, and as I looked around during the ceremony, I saw tender, melancholy gazes on everyone’s face as they stared at the TV.
There were all walks of life there, and all ages too. Lemmy had universal appeal, an uninhibited charisma. It was a bar chock full of people who most likely never met Lemmy yet felt close enough to him that they felt they needed to be there to honor their friend. What better tribute for Lemmy than for millions of people to congregate at the same time around the world to bid him a final farewell.
Lemmy paid no mind to boundaries. His music inspired bands across the board and his personal tastes were as vast as his intellect. He was a gruff looking, dark figured man, with his signature mutton chops, long black hair and a smoldering cigarette. But as rough cut as was his exterior, his personality was equally tender. He loved a good laugh and his closest mates couldn’t recall a time when Lemmy was ever anything less than a class act. One of Lemmy’s friends recalled him saying once, “Manners are free.”
Many of us naive youngsters had at least one “Lemmy weekend,” where we drank Jack and Cokes, smoked our faces off and partied for hours on end to live out or Motorhead rock n’ roll weekend, only to be laid up on the couch for days with hangovers of suicidal proportions. We failed in our ridiculous attempts to be like the old badass and we suffered rightly for it. There is only one Lemmy, just like there is only one Little Richard or one John Lennon.
There is a humanistic, emotional reaction for people at funerals. When Lemmy’s son gave the eulogy, everyone could relate to his words in some way. It was a son saying the last goodbye to his Dad. In the bar watching this, we all cried at some point. Tough guys, with strong faces teared up without shame. Funerals stir up emotions for those you have lost and remind you how much you will miss the one being honored. We all cried a bit for Lem, and a lot of us never shook his hand, shared a drink with him or even saw him perform live, but we knew him, we bonded with him and we mourned his death.
What was it about Lemmy that was so glorious? Was it his music, his persona, his intensity, his sincerity? It was all of that and more. He was mythic, with pop culture slogans like “Lemmy is God” or mock campaign shirts espousing “Lemmy for President.” They were cheeky statements but not entirely sarcastic. He was also incredibly affable. You could easily find, and talk with, him at the Rainbow Bar on the Sunset Strip playing his trusty video poker machine. He was a kind and a true individual who lived life on his own terms and to the absolute fullest. We all hope people will say wonderful stuff like this when we die, but in death, just as in life, it will be hard to meet Lemmy’s standard. RIP Lem.