Lemmy Kilmister, founding member and frontman of Motörhead. has died. He was 70 years old.
News of his death was first reported by radio and TV host Eddie Trunk, who was a longtime friend of Lemmy. Several others have since confirmed the news, including Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, who wrote on Twitter, “Lost one of my best friends, Lemmy, today. He will be sadly missed. He was a warrior and a legend. I will see you on the other side.”
Motörhead have yet to formally confirm the news, though Trunk added that an official statement will be released tomorrow.
The cause of Lemmy’s death is unknown, though he had been suffering from a number of well-publicized health issues, including hematoma. In 2013, he was fitted with an implantable defibrillator to correct an irregular heartbeat.
Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister was born Staffordshire, England in 1945. Inspired to become a musician after seeing The Beatles perform in concert, Lemmy spent his 20s playing in a variety of bands, and also served as a roadie in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In 1972, he was hired to play bass in the UK space rock group Hawkwind, despite having no previous experience on the instrument. He quickly honed his skills, helping shape the band’s sound on critically acclaimed albums such Space Ritual, while also signing lead vocals on the song “Silver Machine”, which peaked at No. 3 on the UK charts.
Lemmy was lead vocalist, bassist, principal songwriter and the founding, and the only constant member of Motörhead since the band’s formation in 1975. To date, Motörhead have released twenty studio albums and achieved 30 million in sales worldwide.
Motörhead saw far more commercial success in the UK, though they achieved a cult status in the US. Their ferocious hard-rock style rejuvenated the metal genre in the late 1970s and inspired everyone from Metallica to Guns N’ Roses to Dave Grohl. Albums such as Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron, and Rock N’ Roll were critically lauded, though ironically the band’s only Grammy Award came via a cover of Metallica’s “Whiplash”, which they recorded for a tribute CD.
Lemmy’s outlandish behavior further fueled his icon status. He was fired from Hawkwind after being arrested at the Canadian border for drug possession, yet his appetite for drugs and alcohol remained a constant throughout most of his career. He famously claimed he had drunken a bottle of Jack Daniel’s every day since turning 30, and he was also a proponent of amphetamines. Recently, he joked that he had switched from drinking whiskey to vodka for “health reasons.”
“Apparently I am still indestructible,” he insisted in a 2014 interview with the Guardian, noting that the only thing that will keep him from playing music was death itself. “As long as I can walk the few yards from the back to the front of the stage without a stick,” he said, adding with a laugh, “Or even if I do have to use a stick.”
Lemmy also dabbled in acting with cameos in films such as Airheads, Hardware, and even Foo Fighters’ video for “White Limo”.