London (AFP) – Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, the hell-raising frontman of pioneering British heavy metal band Motorhead, has died of cancer aged 70, bringing to an end the story of a band dubbed the loudest in the world.
The gravel-voiced veteran, one of rock and roll’s great survivors despite his hard-partying lifestyle, was diagnosed on Saturday — two days after his 70th birthday — and died on Monday in Los Angeles.
A godfather figure in heavy rock music, the singer and bass player with the band dubbed the loudest in the world was the embodiment of rock and roll excess.
“Our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer,” the band said on their official Facebook page on Tuesday.
“He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favourite video game from The Rainbow, with his family.
“We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words.”
Kilmister lived a cramped flat in Los Angeles stuffed with memorabilia. He was typically to be found inside the nearby Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Strip, playing a fruit machine.
He is considered a heavy metal pioneer — though he always insisted Motorhead was a rock and roll band — and cut an iconic figure, with his mutton chop sideburns, long hair, prominent facial warts, black cowboy hat and black shirt.
Kilmister lived an unwavering life of liquor, cigarettes, women, drugs and relentless touring.
“That’s what I always said I wanted to be remembered for: for being honest. Nothing else is worth a damn,” he once said.
– ‘Born to lose, live to win’ –
The three-piece group’s Swedish drummer Mikkey Dee said Motorhead “is over, of course”, confirming there would be no further tours or records.
“Lemmy was Motorhead, but the band will live on in the memories of many,” he told Sweden’s Expressen newspaper.
Kilmister battled his way through the group’s last tour, which ended in Berlin on December 11.
“He was terribly gaunt, he spent all his energy on stage and afterwards he was very, very tired,” Dee said.
His death comes a month after that of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, Dee’s predecessor in the band, who was 61.
Fellow rockers reacted with shock to Kilmister’s death.
Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne said: “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.”
Metallica said: “Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We’re forever grateful for all of your inspiration. RIP.”
Queen guitarist Brian May said playing on stage with Motorhead was “ear-splitting”.
“The sound of Lemmy’s bass was like being inside a giant pulverising machine.”
He said Lemmy could “soak up substances in quantities that would have anaesthetised a rhinoceros.
“If there’s any justice, Lemmy will be in some celestial rock and roll bar, knocking back Jack Daniel’s with the Devil.”
The son of an air force pastor, Kilmister was born in Stoke-on-Trent in central England on December 24, 1945 and grew up on the Welsh island of Anglesey.
He was a roadie for legendary US guitarist Jimi Hendrix and was in the space-rock band Hawkwind, singing their best-known song, “Silver Machine”.
He was sacked after a drugs bust and founded Motorhead in 1975.
Motorhead’s classic hit was the 1980 song “Ace of Spades” and the band released more than 20 studio albums.
Other major songs included “Killed By Death”, “Orgasmatron” and “Overkill”.
– A life of legendary tales –
Kilmister put his longevity down to never taking heroin, but he was not shy of taking other drugs: he claimed he once stayed awake for two weeks on speed.
He drank a bottle of whiskey a day with cola, but in recent years switched to vodka and orange to help manage his diabetes.
Kilmister was fascinated by military memorabilia and uniforms and his flat contained an impressive array of historic weaponry.
He claimed to have slept with more than a thousand women, which he said “isn’t that unreasonable” given how long he had been going.
Lemmy never married, saying one had to choose between home life and the road, but had a son called Paul.
Kilmister’s health had suffered in recent years.
“If I have to die and be on my deathbed regretting decisions I made, I’m not interested in that,” he once said.