By Alex Vale
The rock industry is well known for producing some of the biggest characters and personalities the music industry has ever known over the last few decades or so. Whilst the term legend gets banded around far too casually nowadays, there are few more deserving of the label than Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead.
Lemmy was the quintessential rock star — outspoken, a genius with his instrument and judging by some of his actions, seemingly impervious to death. Unfortunately, Lemmy passed away aged 70 on December 28, 2015, and almost instantly, tributes flooded in from all over the world as the music universe mourned the passing of one of its founding fathers. In an illustrious career spanning almost 50 years, the British rocker left a lasting impression on not only the industry that he loved but the people he met whilst living out his dream.
As macabre as it sounds, it’s only after the passing of an individual that you can start to appreciate the far-reaching impact that they had on the people around them. Lemmy’s funeral was streamed live on YouTube to some 250,000 people and attracted a number of high profile individuals and celebrities, including WWE star Triple H, who delivered an emotional, tear-jerking speech for the musician. The connection between Motörhead and professional wrestling is a lot more logical than it would seem on the surface — the group provided the entrance music for Triple H in the form of their song “The Game,” which is featured on their Sanctuary Records debut album Hammered, released back in 2002. With Triple H known colloquially as ‘The Game’ throughout the WWE world, the song became an iconic part of the wrestler’s walk on and is still used even to this day.
What Lemmy will be remembered for most fondly is without a doubt his massive contribution to the rock industry. When Lemmy began his career way back in the late 1960s, he was barely acquainted with a guitar and yet at his peak, he was known as one of the most inventive and frenzied bass players who ever lived. What’s more, his rasping, raucous vocals were enough to make even the most stationary music fan get up and throw down. This is perhaps seen on what is arguably Motörhead’s most famous song, “Ace of Spades,” from the 1980 album of the same name. Whilst there have been a number of songs written about the casino, over the years including Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” and Ray Charles’ “Blackjack,” Motörhead’s song about probably the most famous of playing cards combines the clever use of gambling metaphors with Lemmy’s bellowing voice in a way which makes it feel like you’re being told off for not being at the casino. The song is still extremely popular and relevant today, being used most recently in an advertisement by Kia to promote their new car, the turbocharged Kia Soul.
An Element of True Fan Dedication
In terms of the ‘fans on the ground’ so to speak, there was a movement a few weeks after the icons death to commemorate Lemmy’s legacy in the form of an element on the periodic table (no, really). A petition was launched on Change.org by John Wright of York, United Kingdom, which proposed that the newly discovered ‘heavy metal’ element 115 should be named ‘Lemmium’ as a tribute to the late, great, singer. Whilst this campaign was unfortunately unsuccessful, it was this kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking that Lemmy was known to incorporate into his music and the fact that his fans were attempting to pay homage to him in this way demonstrates a deep level of understanding and true dedication.
Impact on Popular Culture
Both Motörhead and Lemmy have left an indelible mark on popular culture. Perhaps of the best and most hilarious examples of this lies within a scene from the 1994 20th Century Fox cult classic Airheads. Chazz and Rex are testing their friend Chris with a series of questions and consequently imitating the sound of a wrong answer buzzer when he answers incorrectly. Chris is asked ‘Who would win in a fight between Lemmy and God?’ After answering Lemmy and getting the question wrong, Chris changes his answer to God and is told that he’s wrong again because it’s a trick question — “Lemmy IS God,” Rex muses, as the pair burst out in laughter. For a more commercial impact on pop culture, look no further than Amazon, which has a wide range of Lemmy and Motörhead merchandise available, including t-shirts, wristbands and a luxury gift hamper including Lemmy’s favorite tipple of choice (Jack Daniels, of course).
True Legends Never Really Die – They’re Just Having a Well-Deserved Rest
Despite Lemmy’s passing, his long-lasting legacy will undoubtedly never be forgotten. As the late, great Terry Pratchett once mused, “Do you know that a man is not dead whilst name is spoken?” It’s a safe bet that Lemmy’s name will be uttered for many, many years in glowing terms with regards to both the musician and the art that he created. Yes, it’s true that the word legend is thrown around left right and centre but this is a man who has done more than enough to earn the title a million times over.