Friends and fans of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, the frontman of Motörhead, gathered in Hollywood for the legendary bassist’s memorial service on Saturday, remembering the man amid guitar amps, white roses and the reminiscences of family, bandmates and at least one former snake handler.
The memorial service and toast to the musician, whose career spanned half a century, was held at the Forest Lawn memorial cemetery, and was live-streamed with an open invitation to all “fellow Motörheadbangers and friends” around the world. Lemmy died on 26 December, aged 70, only two days after receiving a diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer.
Lemmy’s son, Paul, remembered his father as a “stage warrior”, “a “profoundly spiritual” man of wit, honesty and undying devotion to his friends and fans.
“He was not a conventional father,” he said, “but I never once felt betrayed by him for that. He was truly a free spirit.”
Paul Kilmister broke down during the eulogy, remembering Lemmy’s “unassuming magnetism” through laughs and tears. He recalled his father’s uncompromising love of music and the stage, his quiet sensitivity to the sacrifices he made, and his overwhelming urge to laugh at life.
Lemmy once checked himself into a hospital as “Justin Case”, threatened to turn his girlfriend’s dog into a mop, and, when his son broke down about the end of his marriage, replied: “well, that was a close shave, son.”
“I was fascinated by him and only ever felt love and admiration,” Paul said, recalling the adage that you can’t choose your parents. “I won the lottery when I got Lemmy.”
“You were perfect, my one and ultimate rock and roll daddy. Travel well, my dear father. You’re back out on the longest road for the great gig in the sky.”
Despite his age and an accomplished career, Lemmy continued touring and recording albums until the end. Motörhead released their 22nd studio album, Bad Magic, in 2015, and in an interview with the Guardian around its release he joked that a lifetime of living to extremes – and a dangerous surgery in 2013 – could not stop him: “Apparently I am still indestructible.”
Good humor and fond stories filled the memorial service. Drummer Slim Jim Phantom named Lemmy “the last of the Mohicans” of rock. The former snake handler for Alice Cooper told a story about riding a motorcycle to a bar with two pythons. Road assistants told Lemmy’s favorite jokes, and suggested a new, heavy metal element be dubbed “Lemmium”. A petition to add the rock star to the table has well over 100,000 signatures.
Guitarist Slash took the stage to remember Lemmy as the “great example of what a lot of, most of my peers all want to be. Somebody who was true to his cool, had more integrity in one finger than, you know, a room full of rock and rollers, and straight-up honest, 100% loyal.”
The former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses said he felt only a small ambivalence. “When I got sober, and the first time I saw him I didn’t have a flask of Jack Daniels in my pocket,” he said, “he was actually disappointed”.
That, Slash said, “was the only thing I felt bad about getting sober”.
Lemmy’s music and personality “will last forever”, he concluded.
Slash was not Lemmy’s only close friend in the music world. After the bassist’s death, Ozzy Osbourne tweeted his tribute: “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.”
Wrestler Triple H, a friend of Lemmy’s, said: “The love that you’re pouring out and the laughter, that’s what he would want.”
Rather than tears, Lemmy “would want people laughing and celebrating his life”, the wrestler said.
Megadeth lead singer and guitarist Dave Mustaine tweeted: “Farewell Lemmy. I love you brother.”
Born in Staffordshire in 1945, Lemmy variously worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and played for Hawkwind and Sam Gopal before founding Motörhead. His hoarse, raging vocals and frenetic but precise bass work became nearly inseparable from metal as a genre, but the bassist himself refused to be penned in by any category.
Lyrics about war and abuse mingled with blunt rock songs about having a good time on Motörhead records, and Lemmy himself, with mutton chops, long hair and a love of Nazi memorabilia, refused to conform even to the stereotypes of rock.
Around Britain Motörhead fans flocked to pubs to raise a glass to Lemmy and watch the legendary frontman’s service.
Akin Arrowsmith, 31, a barman from north London, was among those who got to the bar early for tonight’s event.
He said: “I have been listening to Motörhead since I was about seven or eight. I was gutted when I heard Lemmy had died. My mum phoned me up and asked me if I was OK. I was lying in bed and had tears in my eye.
“We are going to give him a proper Motörhead send off – loud, messy and full of random chaos.”
Suzanne Baker-Downes, a friend of Lemmy’s who has organised the memorial at the pub, said she had been “completely inundated” by thousands of people who want to attend.
“I first met Lemmy at the Hippodrome rock night in January 1989. Upon being introduced Lemmy asked me: ‘Do you want to do some speed and come back to mine to look at my spiral staircase?’
“Bearing in mind I was 21 and straight off the Canadian banana boat I was scared stiff. I said ‘No!’
“Lemmy laughed himself silly and asked for my phone number and the rest is history.”
A seven-year roadie, who introduced himself just as Dave, said: “You will hear a lot of things about Lemmy – icon, legend. All that is true. He was the best boss I ever had or will have, and more importantly he was a friend.”
This article was written by Alan Yuhas in New York, for theguardian.com on Sunday 10th January 2016 00.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010