Rock 'n' roll icon was a rebel

Motorhead singer and bassist Ian Fraser Kilmister in a 2013 photo.
Motorhead singer and bassist Ian Fraser Kilmister in a 2013 photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Ian Fraser Kilmister, the jagged-voiced heavy metal singer and bassist known as Lemmy who led the loud and fast British rock band Motorhead for decades, died on Monday. He was 70.

Motorhead confirmed his death on its official Facebook page. The band said in a statement that Kilmister, who had battled health issues for years, had "a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer", having learnt of the disease last Saturday.

"Please," the band added, "play Motorhead loud, play Hawkwind" - Kilmister's earlier group - "loud, play Lemmy's music LOUD. Have a drink or few."

Known for living hard and playing furiously on platinum- selling Motorhead albums such as Ace Of Spades, Overkill and Iron Fist, Kilmister became an avatar for rock 'n' roll endurance and a god- father to genres such as thrash and speed metal. Formed in 1975, Motorhead has released 22 studio albums with Kilmister as its only constant member, including this year's Bad Magic, featuring typically aggressive songs such as Shoot Out All Of Your Lights and Teach Them How To Bleed.

Still, the band had slowed some in recent years, cancelling tour dates because of Kilmister's ailments, which included heart problems and diabetes. Earlier this year, he said he had switched from his usual drink, Jack Daniels and Coke, to a healthier alternative: orange juice and vodka. "Apparently, I am still indestructible," he said.

Kilmister was born on Dec 24, 1945, in Staffordshire, England. His father was a minister in the Royal Air Force and his mother a librarian.

Starting in his teenage years, he was present for many of rock 'n' roll's pivotal moments. When he was 18, he went to see The Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. He spent six months as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and attended the guitarist's sessions for Axis: Bold As Love. He joined English psych-rock band Hawkwind in 1971, but got kicked out several years later for abusing amphetamines.

In response, he formed Motorhead in 1975, naming the band after the final song he wrote for his previous group (it was slang for a biker with a penchant for speed).

He moved to Los Angeles in 1990, selecting an apartment close to the Rainbow Bar & Grill in West Hollywood, a dank hangout for rock's most notorious figures. Last year, he told Rolling Stone he was not ready to hang up his bass just yet. "I've still got a few bugs in me," he said. "Don't look forward to my demise just yet."

On Monday night, he was remembered online by his rock peers. "He was a warrior and a legend," wrote Ozzy Osbourne, a fellow metal icon. "I will see you on the other side."

Recognisable by his untamable mutton chops and usually all-black biker gear, Kilmister cut an imposing rebel figure and was known to collect Nazi memorabilia, although he denied sympathising beyond fashion.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'Rock 'n' roll icon was a rebel'. Print Edition | Subscribe