Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister (24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015) was an English musician, singer, and songwriter who founded and fronted the rock band Motörhead. His music and lifestyle was a distinctive part of the heavy metal genre.
Ace of Spades- Motorhead
Can’t believe I’ll never see Lemmy again. See you on the other side,my friend.
Lemmy was born in Stoke-on-Trent and grew up in North Wales. He was influenced by rock and roll and the early Beatles, which led to him playing in several rock groups in the 1960s, most significantly the Rockin’ Vickers. He worked a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and The Nice, before joining the space rock band Hawkwind in 1971, singing lead on their hit “Silver Machine“. After being fired from Hawkwind, he founded Motörhead as lead singer, bassist, songwriter and frontman. Motörhead’s success peaked in 1980 and 1981 and included the hit single “Ace of Spades“. Lemmy continued to record and tour regularly with Motörhead until his death in December 2015.
Aside from his musical skills, Lemmy was well known for his hard living lifestyle and regular consumption of alcohol and amphetamines. He was also noted for his collection of Nazi memorabilia, although he did not support Nazi ideals. He made several cameo appearances in film and television.
Lemmy was born on Christmas Eve in the Burslem area of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When Lemmy was three months old, his father, an ex-Royal Air Force chaplain, separated from his mother. His mother and grandmother moved to nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme, then moved again to Madeley, another nearby town. When Lemmy was 10, his mother married former footballer George Willis, who already had two older children from a previous marriage, Patricia and Tony, with whom Lemmy did not get along.
Motörhead: Live Fast Die Old
The family moved to a farm in Benllech on the Welsh island of Anglesey, with Lemmy later commenting on his time there, that “funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time – but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view”. He attended Sir Thomas Jones’ School in Amlwch, where he was nicknamed Lemmy, although he was unsure why; it would later be claimed that the name originated from the phrase “lemmy [lend me] a quid till Friday” because of his habit of borrowing money from people to feed his addiction to slot machines. He soon started to show an interest in rock and roll music, girls, and horses.
By the time he left school his family had relocated to Conwy, still in northern Wales. There he worked at menial jobs including one in the local Hotpoint electric appliance factory, while also playing guitar for local bands, such as the Sundowners, and spending time at a horse-riding school. Lemmy saw the Beatles perform at The Cavern Club when he was 16, and then learned to play along on guitar to their first album Please Please Me. He also admired the sarcastic attitude of the group, particularly that of John Lennon.
At the age of 17, he met a holidaying girl called Cathy. He followed her to Stockport, where she eventually had his son Sean, who was put up for adoption. In the 2010 documentary film Lemmy, Lemmy mentions having a son whose mother has only recently “found him” and “hadn’t got the heart to tell him who his father was”, indicating the boy – perhaps Sean – was given up for adoption.
Recording and performing career
1960–1970: Early years
In Stockport, Lemmy joined local bands The Rainmakers and then The Motown Sect who enjoyed playing northern clubs for three years. Wanting to progress further, in 1965 he joined The Rockin’ Vickers who signed a deal with CBS, released three singles and toured Europe, reportedly being the first British band to visit the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Rockin’ Vickers moved to Manchester, where they lived together in a flat. There Lemmy got involved with a girl named Tracy who bore him a son, Paul. Lemmy did not have any involvement with him until the boy was six.
Leaving the Rockin’ Vickers, Lemmy relocated to London in 1967. He shared a flat with Noel Redding, bassist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and with Neville Chesters, their manager. He got a job as a roadie for the band. In 1968 he joined the psychedelic rock band Sam Gopal and recorded with them for the album Escalator and the single “Horse”.
In August 1971, Lemmy joined the space rock band Hawkwind, who were based in Ladbroke Grove, London, as a bassist and vocalist. He had no previous experience as a bass guitarist, and was cajoled into joining immediately before a benefit gig in Notting Hill by bandmate Dik Mik in order to have two members who enjoyed amphetamines. He quickly developed a distinctive style that was strongly shaped by his early experience as a rhythm guitarist, often using double stops and chords rather than the single note lines preferred by most bassists. His bass work was a fundamental part of the Hawkwind sound during his tenure, perhaps best documented on Space Ritual. He also provided the lead vocals on several songs, including the band’s biggest UK chart single, “Silver Machine“, which reached No. 3 in 1972.
In 1975 Lemmy was was arrested at the Canadian/US border in Windsor, Ontario, on drug possession charges; he spent five days in jail. Lemmy was released without charge since Windsor Police had arrested him for possession of cocaine, but and after testing the drug was revealled to be speed. According to Canadian law at the time, he could not be charged[clarification needed] and was released with no charge or conviction. Nonetheless, he was fired from Hawkwind.
After Hawkwind, Lemmy formed a new band called “Bastard” with guitarist Larry Wallis (former member of the Pink Fairies, Steve Took‘s Shagrat and UFO) and drummer Lucas Fox. Lemmy’s connection with Took (formerly of T. Rex) was not limited to Wallis, as they were personal friends and Took was the stepfather to Lemmy’s son, Paul. When his manager informed him that a band by the name of “Bastard” would never get a slot on Top of the Pops, Lemmy changed the band’s name to “Motörhead” – the title of the last song he had written for Hawkwind.
Soon after, both Wallis and Fox were replaced with guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and with this line-up the band began to achieve success. Lemmy’s guttural vocals were unique in rock at that time, and would not be copied until the rise in popularity of punk. The band’s sound appealed to both Lemmy’s original fans and, eventually, to fans of punk rock. Lemmy asserted that he generally felt more kinship with punks than with metalheads; he even played with the Damned for a handful of gigs when they had no regular bassist. The band’s success peaked in 1980 and 1981 with several UK chart hits, including the single “Ace of Spades“, which remained a crowd favourite throughout the band’s career, and the UK No. 1 live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith. Motörhead went on to become one of the most influential bands in heavy metal. Despite Motörhead’s many member changes over their 40-year history, the lineup of Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee remained constant after 1995.
Collaborations and songwriting
Lemmy worked with several musicians, apart from his Motörhead band-mates, over the course of his career.
He wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S” for the Ramones, which he played in his live sets as a tribute to the band. He was brought in as a songwriter for Ozzy Osbourne‘s 1991 No More Tears album, providing lyrics for the tracks “Hellraiser,” (which Motörhead later recorded themselves and released as a single), “Desire,” “I Don’t Want to Change the World” and the single “Mama I’m Coming Home.” Lemmy has noted in several magazine and television interviews that he made more money from the royalties of that one song than he had in his entire time with Motörhead. After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2000, for which he was hospitalized briefly, Lemmy again appeared with Motörhead at WrestleMania X-Seven. Lemmy published his autobiography, White Line Fever in November 2002. In 2005, Motörhead won their first Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category with their cover of Metallica‘s “Whiplash.” From 1990 he lived in Los Angeles, California, most recently in a two-room apartment two blocks away from his favourite hangout, the Rainbow Bar and Grill.
In 2008 an officially licensed Lemmy figurine was produced. Available as a “regular” or “special” edition, Lemmy recalled:
I had to stand on this platform while the camera went around and did the hologram thing and then they made the model, only smaller. They said it’s an action figure and I said, ‘So, you’re gonna put a dick on it?’ They said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, then it’s not going to get much action then, is it?’ A bad name for it, right?[dead link]
Film and television
Lemmy made appearances in film and television, including the 1990 science fiction film Hardware and the 1987 comedy Eat the Rich, for which Motörhead also recorded the soundtracks. In the 1980s Motörhead were the musical guests on the cult British TV show “The Young Ones“, episode entitled “Bambi“. In the 1994 comedy Airheads (in which he is credited as “Lemmy von Motörhead”), one scene involving Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi, has Brendan Fraser’s character, “Chazz” Chester Darvey talking to an undercover cop who is pretending to be a record executive—Chazz asks him, “Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?”, the cop replies, “Lemmy”, to which Rex, played by Steve Buscemi, imitates a game show buzzer and the cop quickly changes his answer to “… God!”. Rex replies saying, “Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy is God”. Lemmy appears in the film and shouts out (truthfully) that he edited his school magazine as other people in the crowd admit geeky pastimes in their youth. Lemmy has also appeared in several movies from Troma Entertainment, including the narrator in 1996’s Tromeo and Juliet and as himself in both Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV.
Lemmy has a cameo role in the film ‘’Down and Out with the Dolls’’ (Kurt Voss, 2001). He appears as a lodger who lives in a closet. He appeared[when?] on Down and Dirty with Jim Norton as the series DJ, and also wrote the theme music.
The rockumentary film Lemmy was directed and produced by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski. It consists of a combination of 16 mm film and HD video footage, produced over three years. It features interviews with friends, peers, and admirers such as Dave Grohl, Slash, Ozzy Osbourne, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo of Metallica, David Ellefson of Megadeth, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Alice Cooper, Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order, Dee Snider, Nikki Sixx, Mick Jones of The Clash, Ice-T, Kat Von D, Henry Rollins, Lars Frederiksen of Rancid, Jim Heath of The Reverend Horton Heat, Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, Mike Inez, Joan Jett, pro skateboarder Geoff Rowley, pro wrestler Triple H, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, Jarvis Cocker, Marky Ramone, former Hawkwind bandmates Dave Brock and Stacia, and Steve Vai.
In 2015, Lemmy appeared as a central figure in the Björn Tagemose-directed silent film Gutterdämmerung opposite Grace Jones, Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop, Tom Araya of Slayer and Eagles of Death Metal‘s Jesse Hughes.
In video games
Image and celebrity status
We recorded his track in Los Angeles in maybe two takes about a year and a half ago. Until then I’d never met what I’d call a real rock ‘n’ roll hero before. Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll – he told me he never considered Motörhead a metal band, he was quite adamant. Lemmy’s a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend. No one else comes close.
In a Channel 4 documentary called Motörhead: Live Fast, Die Old, broadcast on 22 August 2005, it was claimed that Lemmy had “bedded” in excess of 2,000 women. Lemmy himself however stated: “I said more than a thousand, the magazine made two thousand of it.” Maxim has Lemmy at number 8 on its top ten “Living Sex Legends” list, as they claim that he has slept with around 1,200 women.
In the documentary he explained that while in school he noticed a pupil who had brought a guitar to school and had been “surrounded by chicks”. His mother had a guitar, which he then took to school, even though he could not play, and was himself surrounded by girls: “In those days just having a guitar was enough… that was it”.
Drugs and alcohol
Lemmy was well known for his intake of alcohol. In the documentary Live Fast Die Old, it was revealed that he drank a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day and had done so since he was 30 years old. In 2013, Lemmy stopped drinking Jack Daniel’s for health reasons.
During his time with Hawkwind, he developed an appetite for amphetamines and LSD, particularly the former. Before joining Hawkwind, he recalled Dik Mik, a former Hawkwind sound technician, visiting his squat in the middle of the night and taking speed with him. They became interested in how long “you could make the human body jump about without stopping,” which they did for a few months, until Mik ran out of money and wanted to return to Hawkwind, taking Lemmy with him.
I first got into speed because it was a utilitarian drug and kept you awake when you needed to be awake, when otherwise you’d just be flat out on your back. If you drive to Glasgow for nine hours in the back of a sweaty truck you don’t really feel like going onstage feeling all bright and breezy… It’s the only drug I’ve found that I can get on with, and I’ve tried them all – except smack [heroin] and morphine: I’ve never “fixed” anything.
In November 2005, he was invited to the National Assembly for Wales as a guest speaker by Tory member William Graham. He was asked to express his views on the detrimental effects of drugs, and called for the legalisation of heroin: “I have never had heroin but since I moved to London from North Wales in ’67 I have mixed with junkies on a casual and almost daily basis,” he said. “I also lived with a young woman who tried heroin just to see what it was like. It killed her three years later. I hate the idea even as I say it, but I do believe the only way to treat heroin is to legalise it.” He stated that legalisation would eradicate the drug dealer from society.
Lemmy collected German military regalia, and had an Iron Cross encrusted on his bass, which led to accusations of Nazi sympathies. He stated that he collected the memorabilia for aesthetic values only, and considered himself an anarchist or libertarian, being “anti-communism, fascism, any extreme”, and saying that “government causes more problems than it solves”. Jeff Hanneman, the founder of the thrash metal band Slayer, befriended Lemmy due to their shared fondness for collecting Nazi memorabilia. According to Keith Emerson‘s autobiography, two of Lemmy’s Hitler Youth knives were given to Emerson by Lemmy during his time as a roadie for The Nice. Emerson used these knives many times as keyholders when playing the Hammond organ during concerts with The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer before destroying them.
Lemmy positioned his microphone in an uncommonly high position, angled so that he appeared to be looking up at the sky rather than at the audience. He said that it was for “personal comfort, that’s all. It’s also one way of avoiding seeing the audience. In the days when we only had ten people and a dog, it was a way of avoiding seeing that we only had ten people and a dog.” 
Lemmy’s first bass was a Hopf model that he bought soon after joining Hawkwind. For the majority of his career, he used Rickenbacker basses. In September 1996, his Rickenbacker bass was featured in the Bang Your Head exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, US. Rickenbacker have introduced a signature 4001LK “Lemmy Kilmister” bass.
Triple H’s speech at Lemmy Kilmister’s funeral
On 28 December 2015, four days after his 70th birthday, Lemmy died at his home in Los Angeles, California, at 16:00 PST from an “extremely aggressive cancer.” Motörhead announced his death on their official Facebook page later that day. According to the band, his cancer had only been diagnosed two days prior to his death.
Reviewing his career after his death, The Guardian said:
Over the years as guitarists and drummers passed through Motörhead’s line up, Lemmy remained the grizzled heart of the machine. His bronchial rasp – directed into a towering microphone tilted down into his weather-beaten face – was one of the most recognisable voices in rock, while his Rickenbacker guitar recast the bass as an overpowered, distorted rhythmic rumble.
In his 2002 autobiography White Line Fever, Lemmy had written:
“People don’t become better when they’re dead; you just talk about them as if they are, but it’s not true! People are still a–holes, they’re just dead a–holes! … I didn’t have a really important life, but at least it’s been funny