I just found out about the passing of Ian Fraser Kilmister (affectionately known as Lemmy) a half hour ago. I spent half of the day making arrangements to see my grandfather, who is also on his way out, only to cap off my day with this news. In a lot of ways the stories are the same. People with a profound impact on my life, people who got to lead great lives themselves, and whose ending is something that I've been expecting for a little bit. It hasn't been an easy day.
I know that anytime these high profile deaths happen, people say "what does it matter to you? You didn't actually know them. You never met them." What's the point of music then? What's the point of going to shows? What's the point of any of this? Lemmy wasn't a guy I got to share a cigarette with ever, but that doesn't mean his existence didn't impact countless lives. His charisma, his personality, his music, the way he dressed, the way his voice sounded are all things we gravitated toward and wanted to be. I used to joke that I was smoking a pack a day because I wanted my voice to sound like Lemmy's. His existence mattered to me and his death matters to me and to you and to everyone else because the impacts he made mattered. We talk a lot about things like 'influence', 'heroes', and 'legends'. In the subculture, that begins and ends with Motorhead and Lemmy. There is an alpha and omega and it's him. It was, it is, and it ever shall be. There are benchmarks for how to live in this subculture and he laid a lot of them out for us. He taught us how to carry ourselves like made men doing what we wanted on our terms. He was a larger than life personality. He lived sex, drugs, and rock and roll the way it should be. He wasn't the braggart that the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin were about it. Lemmy's world was his and his friends'. What went on in it belonged to them, never for the outsiders. Partying like there's no tomorrow is not G7 on the jukebox. It isn't something you parlay into a role in Pirates of the Caribbean. It is something that you use toward personal exorcism, only sharing it with a select group of people who understand why you do it. That was how Lemmy lived. That's what Motorhead was about. That is what punk music is about. It isn't for everyone and it is self-destructive. He got it. He made it. To the initiated ones, "Lemmy is God" isn't just a quote from the movie Airheads, it's the honest truth.
I really don't know what to say about Lemmy that hasn't already been said or won't be said in the coming days. I once heard someone say during a eulogy that "there aren't enough words worthy enough to measure the departed person's impact and value". As a writer I like to pride myself on being able to find the words for any situation and circumstance. How do you sum up Lemmy? You can't. There aren't enough words worthy enough to measure his impact and value. I've been writing this whole time and I haven't said anything that really measures what Lemmy meant to this whole subculture. He influenced countless bands. An entire galaxy of them. All of them wanted to be like him and Motorhead. Everyone from Metallica to Inepsy. Imagine a world without Motorhead and I'll show you a world without punk music. It doesn't happen without them.
In September, Lemmy infamously and sadly declared "I can't do it" onstage during a performance because his body couldn't physically handle the strain from playing anymore. We knew the end was coming then. Studies have shown that when a man's wife dies, he typically doesn't last much longer after. A lot of factors are attributed to this, but the major one is simply the man just loses the will to go on. Lemmy's first love in life was music. While he didn't give it up exactly, it wasn't the same. His body had finally betrayed him and quit at 69 years old. Three months later, he was gone.
I'm sitting here and I'm struggling with the death of a 70 year old British man I never met. That sounds really stupid, doesn't it? For a lot of us, a lot of you who read this, and for a lot of you who know me, you understand that it's more than that. The small rooms we crowd into, the bad decisions we make, the friends we keep, the way we dress... it is all more than that. Lemmy Kilmister wasn't another rocker. He wasn't another musician. He's the guy who helped build all of this. He's the one that showed us the way. A lot of people say "Lemmy is God" because Steve Buscemi said it in a movie once. Most of them will never really understand what that truly means. Lemmy is gone, but he will never die because gods don't die.