Born To Lose… He Lived To Win: Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015)

On Christmas Eve, he celebrated his 70th birthday.

On Boxing Day, he learned he had extremely aggressive cancer.

Yesterday, the rock icon sadly passed away.

It was a whirlwind final few days for the Motorhead lead singer. Today though, many fans across the world will mourn the passing of Ian Fraser Kilmister.

Unsure of how he actually gained the nickname of Lemmy, it was claimed it came from the phrase “lend me a quid ’til Friday” (the “lend me” part being slurred to say “Lemmy”) – due to a habit of borrowing money to feed an addiction to slot machines. Early influences included The Beatles, who he saw perform at The Cavern Club when he was 16 – notably enjoying the sarcastic nature of the band. It was to their first album Please Please Me that Lemmy would learn to play along on a guitar.

He would take part in a number of small groups: The Rainmakers, The Motown Sect, The Rockin’ Vickers, Sam Gopal and Opal Butterfly before landing his first big mainstream place – as the bassist for the space rock band Hawkwind. Lemmy didn’t have any experience as a bassist, but using what he did know as a rhythm guitarist he used a style away from the norm for bassists, which was fundamental to the group’s success during this period.

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Lemmy, with his trademark high-placed microphone.

Occasionally, he’d also perform the lead vocals on their songs, including their biggest hit in the UK, the #3 hit “Silver Machine”.

After being arrested on drug possession charges, Hawkwind fired Lemmy from the group three years after joining them. As a result, he went on to form a new group called Bastard – this would then be changed after being told he’d have no chance of appearing on Top of the Pops with that name – so he picked the name of the final song he wrote for Hawkwind: Motorhead.

Hardcore fans will know and love the group’s wide collection, but everyone will be accustomed to their biggest hit “Ace of Spades” – a song which stood out as unique to the times, and most certainly helped the band to become one of the most influential groups to the genre of rock as we know it today.

With his unique voice, style of singing (with a microphone placed rather high) and look, Lemmy was a very recognisable character, with many major appearances in mainstream media. In the video game world, in the Super Mario series, one of Bowser’s seven koopalings (Lemmy Koopa) is named after him, and Kilmister himself is an unlockable character in Guitar Hero: Metallica.

He also had a strong friendship with WWE wrestler Triple H, performing three of his entrance theme songs: “The Game”, “Line In The Sand” (used in a faction called Evolution) and “King of Kings”. On many occasions, Lemmy has been spotted wearing a necklace with Triple H’s logo on it. Motorhead also performed “The Game” live for Triple H at two WrestleMania events: X-Seven and 21.

A legend has been lost. Not just for the rock genre, but for music as a whole. He was born to lose… but he certainly lived to win.

Rock In Power, Lemmy. We’ll miss you.

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Ashley Redman
You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools – but that’s the way I like it, I don’t want to live forever!

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Posted in General, Retro Music
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