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(Credit: Alejandro Páez)

Music

Five reasons why Lemmy Kilmister was the ultimate rock hero

@josephtaysom

The late Lemmy Kilmister was the ultimate bastion of rock and roll. The bassist flew the flag for debauchery and was perhaps best memorialised by Dave Grohl, who famously said: “Fuck Elvis and Keith Richards, Lemmy’s the king of rock ‘n’ roll. No one else comes close”.

Kilmister was a pioneer that helped spread the word of hard rock to the masses, oozing charisma along the way, solidifying his presence in the annals of history as so much more than just a rockstar. Lemmy was capable of causing a quasi-religious feeling when he stepped foot on-stage, leaving thousands of like-minded nefarious souls worshipping at his altar.

It has now been over half a decade since Kilmister departed, and the gaping hole left by the Motorhead leader only continues to widen with each passing year. The stories that emerged about Kilmister in the wake of his death showcased a tender side to the singer that he held back from the public, tales that portray him in a more three-dimensional light.

Below, we take a look at five iconic tales about the irreplaceable whisky fiend that made him such a wildly beloved figure.

Five wild stories about Lemmy Kilmister:

How Lemmy joined Hawkwind…

Lemmy’s introduction to the world of showbusiness came as a roadie. Throughout his career, Kilmister had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, as demonstrated by his arrival in Hawkwind.

Kilmister had gone down to watch the group in Notting Hill, but their bassist was AWOL. The gig was in jeopardy until Lemmy agreed to deputise on the instrument despite never once before playing it. Somehow, Kilmister passed his audition, and he spent four years in the band before being sacked after his arrest for drug possession.

Working for Jimi Hendrix

Before Hawkwind, Lemmy’s previous employer was Jimi Hendrix, who he worked for as a roadie, and drug mule. “I was sleeping on [Jimi Hendrix’s roadie] Neville Chester’s floor — he was sharing a flat with Noel Redding,” he once said about how he got the role. “So whenever they needed an extra pair of hands I was right there. I didn’t get the job for any talent or anything.”

This was a dream ticket for the impressionable Lemmy, who learned directly under the influence of Hendrix, and there was one crucial life lesson Jimi taught him. He once recalled: “That’s how I learned to function on five hits of acid. But I also learned about theatrics and performing. Jimi was so effortlessly cool and he would move like an elegant spider.”

He was always the last one to go to bed

Lemmy took partying to another level and could drink anybody under the table. His wildest exploit saw the singer stay up for two weeks without going to bed once. Kilmister was simply made of sterner stuff than the rest, and he’d also consumed a mountainous amount of speed which fuelled his mammoth binge.

“That was the old days, when you could get the good stuff,” he once remembered. “I’ll always prefer speed to cocaine; cocaine makes you think you’re gonna throw up, wears off too quick and you go to sleep on it. What’s the point of that?”.

His passionate anti-racism rant

Lemmy controversially collected Nazi memorabilia, but he also accumulated military items from all of the Axis countries and didn’t have a fixation specifically on fascist regimes. However, when this emerged, Kilmister was accused of being a racist, and he responded beautifully.

“I am not, nor have I ever been, a racist,” he wrote in 1995. “Nor should you be. How can you hate a race? Can you not, with your brain (which seems to be inter-racially supplied) distinguish between people who are okay and people who are assholes? Politicians foster racism—it keeps us fighting each other, and that keeps us from throwing them out of office.

“Vietnam–there’s a thing—blacks and whites, and Japanese and Vietnamese, and Irish and Indians—fighting together. For the wrong cause, though no less bravely. Do you think we could give bravery a fucking rest? Except in the case of a fire, or a woman and child trapped in Oklahoma City? Being scared of people makes you kill them. We got probes in space that go to the stars, and we might go soon, ourselves. What are we going to take with us? Hate? WORK AGAINST IT. Hasta la vista, motherfuckers.”

The caring side of Lemmy

Dave Grohl idolised Lemmy growing up, and the two would become friends with the Foo Fighters singer, even delivering a heartwrenching speech at the late singer’s funeral.

During his eulogy, Grohl recalled an act of kindness from Lemmy that epitomised his character. The incident took place backstage at a concert when the Motorhead man visited Grohl’s family in his dressing room. After noticing his newborn daughter in a crib, Lemmy discretely stubbed his cigarette out into his whiskey, which meant everything to Grohl.

“To most people, that would seem like nothing, I suppose,” Grohl recalled. “But to me, that was my hero putting out his cigarette into his drink and putting it aside because my daughter was there in the room. I think what everybody has always known or at least learned today is that Lemmy was not only that kind of whiskey-drinking rock and roll star, but he had the biggest heart and set such a great example because he was so kind to everyone.”