Ian Fraser Kilmister, best known as Lemmy, the bass-wielding frontman of the speed metal band Motörhead, died at his home yesterday. Two days prior, he had been diagnosed with cancer, just two days after his 70th birthday.
Kilmister was born on December 24, 1945, in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, England. He played in a few bands as a youngster, and even worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. But his career was born in earnest as the bassist for the pysch-rock band Hawkwind, which he joined in 1972. He was kicked out of Hawkwind after a drug arrest on tour in Canada in 1975; his predilection for amphetamines clashed with the band’s psychedelic tastes. He formed a new band, Motörhead, both the slang for people who take speed and the name of the last song he wrote for Hawkwind.
Over a span of 40 years, on 22 studio albums, there was a rotating cast of band members anchored by Lemmy, the only consistent member throughout all of the various lineups. They hit their commercial peak in the U.S. with 1980’s Ace of Spades, and won a Grammy in 2005 for their cover of Metallica’s “Whiplash.” The band’s final album, Bad Magic, was released earlier this year.
Often credited with laying the foundation for thrash and speed metal, Kilmister always rejected “metal” or “punk” labels, despite his significant influences on those genres. But he had no issue associating his style of rock and roll with the drugs he favored, calling Motörhead’s music “speed-freak rock ‘n’ roll.” After hearing of his passing, the band’s current lineup posted sentiments on Facebook: “We will say more in the coming days, but for now, please…play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD. Have a drink or few.”