by Tommy Hough
Lemmy is dead. I never thought I'd write that.
Suffice it to say I'm nearly inconsolable. We just did a bit on the 91X Almanac about Lemmy's 70th birthday four days ago. Now he's gone. According to the initial news stories he was killed by a particularly aggressive form of cancer. But would you expect Lemmy's cancer to be anything less than aggressive?
Like Scott Weiland's death a few weeks ago, the internet began to chatter with an initial posting this afternoon, but I've learned over several years of internet rumors and employing some kind of journalistic method that you wait for a confirmation of the story from a reliable source, or you confirm it yourself.
If you've studied journalism, or simply read All the President's Men, you want to get at least two sources, but three is better. They have to go on the record. These days it's tougher with second-tier news outlets or clickbait sites picking up internet rumors by way of built-in coding 'bots seeking stories. But the confirmations came, and the news was true.
As far as Lemmy's legacy goes, if you're a Motörhead fan you know and love the music and know Lemmy and the band could not function without each other. The band's 40-year ride – formed after Lemmy was kicked out of his first band Hawkwind in 1975 – is as impressive and real as Lemmy's long-standing attitude: rock and roll is not about looking back.
The songs and albums are endless, and great: Bomber, Overkill, the landmark live album No Sleep 'Till Hammersmith, Iron Fist, Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron, and they even got Michael Palin from Monty Python to deliver a faux sermon to close out the first side of Rock 'n' Roll.
But in one odd departure, Lemmy slowed Motörhead down for one number in 1991, which turned out to be the title song for the band's 1916 album.
Written about the British disaster in the World War One battle of the Somme, Lemmy offered up these touching lyrics for the dead – tying together at last much of the albeit tongue-in-cheek military gear the band often sported – in one very real and tender moment:
"Sixteen years old when I went to the war, to fight for a land fit for heroes. God on my side, and a gun in my hand – chasing my days down to zero. And I marched and I fought and I bled, and I died and I never did get any older. But I knew at the time, that a year in the line – was a long enough life for a soldier."
Both my grandfathers survived the battlefields of World War One, so those lyrics mean a little something extra for me.
Thank you for everything Lemmy: the music, the attitude, the moles. The music Motörhead made was thunderous, dangerous, hilarious and bone-crushingly swaggering as anything that came down the pike in the wake of Elvis. In the late 70s it was no small feat to bring a pub of rockers and punks together, but Lemmy and Motörhead did it, and wouldn't be caught thinking twice about how.
May the cards be right, may the leather be black, may the bomber keep flying and may the road crew get lost along the way. RIP Lemmy Kilmister.
Tommy Hough is a former San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.