By Carl Begai
You may have heard that Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister passed away on December 28th, 2015 at the age of 70, a victim of cancer. If you haven’t…. well, you are most certainly oblivious to the world around you.
I honestly had no intention of writing a tribute in Lemmy’s honour, figuring nothing I could possibly say would have any weight or worth in the shadow of such a legend. When the boss asked the BraveWords staff to contribute to a very necessary piece honouring Lemmy’s memory, however, I figured I had to say something. After all, the man and the band have been a part of my life for 30 years now; surely I could come up with a few kind words.
Turns out I did, much more easily than I’d expected….
I’m not going to launch into this tribute with claims that Lemmy and Motörhead changed or influenced the way I devoured my rock n’ roll upon discovery, because they didn’t. The simple fact is that when I picked up my first Motörhead album in 1986 in downtown Toronto and Cheapies, it was on a whim inspired entirely by the Orgasmatron artwork. This was before the age of listening desks, thus all I had to go on was word of mouth, MuchMusic, and judging a proverbial book by its cover. In this case the initial Orgasmatron spin was the first of a gazillion, and from there Motörhead was simply “there” in the best way possible. Aggressive high energy go-to music good for any occasion, something decidedly different from the Metallica, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Ratt and Mötley Crüe albums that otherwise occupied my brain for hours on end. Year by year, forward and back, my Motörhead album collection grew to the expected size for that of a true fan. In short, all of ’em.
I had the pleasure of seeing Motörhead play in both Canada and Europe several times, the first being in Toronto at the infamous Operation Rock N’ Roll show in 1991 with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and Dangerous Toys. Regardless of which side of the world they played on, the trio was welcomed with a reverence worthy of royalty and Lemmy was most certainly the king. Even from the back of the room he was larger (and louder) than life. A living legend in the truest sense.
Not only has Lemmy been that hard-hitting whiskey-and-gravel rasp between my ears for almost 30 years (!), he’s also provided me with repeated amusement at the house parties thrown here at the office. Knowing that Motörhead may in fact do serious damage to those unfamiliar with full-on rock and metal, I’ve often played his rockabilly side-project The Head Cat as a palatable portion of Lemmy for the uninitiated (but surprisingly, not clueless). I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked me “Is that the guy from Motörhead?” Their drop-jawed reactions are priceless when they learn the truth.
On the evening following the news of Lemmy’s passing, word went out amongst my friends and acquaintances that there would be an unofficial Motörhead night at a local rock bar dive. It was a move that was undoubtedly echoed in hundreds of cities and towns around the world. The Motörhead faithful turned up on what would have been a slow Tuesday night, dressed appropriately in Motörhead regalia, Lemmy’s voice ripping through the room, the consumption of Jack Daniels enough to have the bar staff worried they would run out before 11:00pm. In amongst the toasts to Lemmy’s memory and banging of heads to favourite Motörhead tunes, the topic of discussion focused on the fact news of Lemmy’s death was everywhere. On every news site, on every news broadcast, on seemingly everyone’s lips.
One fan on the younger side of 30 made the point that even the people who don’t listen to metal or rock, and news agencies that would never touch anything resembling loud and rebellious music, they were all aware of and sharing the news that Lemmy had died. And then this fan said something that summed it up for me completely:
“Lemmy is omnipresent, like Elvis.”
There’s no better testament to the spirit of rock n’ roll. Somewhere, Mr. Kilmister is smiling.
Rest in peace, sir. Thank you and good night.
Check out the complete BraveWords tribute to Lemmy at this location, featuring thoughts on Lemmy’s legacy from the crew.