Nearly two weeks after he died, Motörhead founder and heavy metal icon Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister received his formal farewell on Saturday at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Los Angeles. As family members, fellow metal-heads and longtime friends filled the sanctuary to remember a singular artist and creator of such rock ‘n’ roll classics as “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” “Stay Clean” and dozens of others, thousands of rockers across the world watched via a live YouTube feed.
Like the man himself, the two-hour ceremony was light on formalities but heavy in intensity. Filled with funny, honest stories and anecdotes about a bassist and singer who carved a singular path through life, the celebration focused on what many described as a man with integrity and focus.
Among those offering words were Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo of Metallica, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez, former Motörhead members and behind-the-scenes supporters. Attendees also included Ozzy Osbourne, Nik Turner of Hawkwind and porn star Ron Jeremy.
To a person, those celebrating Lemmy, who died at age 70, gushed about a man whose charisma was matched only by his kindness and commitment to his purpose, which was to play rock ‘n’ roll until he died.
“They say you can’t choose your parents. Well, I won the lottery when I got Lemmy,” said his son Paul Inder, who offered an eloquent recollection of the last time he saw his dad perform, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in August.
In the dressing room before the show, recalled Inder, Lemmy was frail, his trembling hand more pronounced and his voice softer. “But the moment it came to showtime, his uncompromising grit and unyielding determination kept him going at full beam,” he said, “and I knew nothing was going to stop him, not even at this point, from getting up onstage and doing what he loved to do most of all.”
Added Inder, “He wasn’t going to give in as long as he could walk, stand, play his instrument and sing.” Making rock ‘n’ roll was what Inder described as Lemmy’s “idea of a yoga practice, his version of exercising or working out.”
Inder and the others stood in front of a shrine that included the rock warrior’s boots, roses, an old photo of Motörhead’s classic line-up and a porcelain urn shaped like the bassist’s brimmed hat. On a table in the center, flowers were arranged in the shape of his drug of choice, what Inez described as “a giant speed line made out of flowers.”
“He was gravitational,” said Inez, observing that “Lemmy’s brand of cool was singular in nature. It was 100% non-transferable. There’s only one Elvis Presley, one Little Richard, Steve McQueen, you know, and one Lemmy.”
Metallica drummer Ulrich recalled meeting Lemmy as a teenager and ending up spending an early 1980s summer with Motörhead, and how gracious and supportive of the young drummer the elder metal statesman was.
Describing Lemmy’s demeanor as capturing “the fine balancing act of being just enough of a rock star to be cool, but not too much of one to be uncool,” Ulrich credited his Motörhead summer with helping to create Metallica.
“It made me want to be a musician and be part of a group, be part of a collective, be part of the craziness of the traveling rock ‘n’ roll circus and one day maybe we could extend that same open door, that same open embrace to other awkward and disenfranchised kids that hopefully one day would come our way,” said Ulrich.
When the ceremony was over, many headed to Kilmister’s home away from home, the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip. Hundreds of fans had already gathered there and at the Roxy to watch the ceremony and drink.
At the Rainbow, an image of Lemmy was affixed to the wall of the building, which well-wishers signed. Fans lined the sidewalks as Lemmy’s entourage entered. When he was alive, Lemmy spent countless nights at the Rainbow drinking, playing video games and greeting fans who’d made a pilgrimage to meet him.
Inside, a life-size cardboard cut-out of Lemmy and band greeted well-wishers. People filled the booths and bars, eating pepperoni pizza and chicken wings and drinking Lemmy’s longtime cocktail of choice, Jack Daniel’s and Coke. At the Roxy next door, fans celebrated by headbanging while Motörhead’s music played over the system.
Down Sunset at the Whisky A Go Go, the previously scheduled heavy metal night was re-imagined as a tribune to Motörhead. Featuring guests including Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, Slipknot screamer Corey Taylor, Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser and veteran drummer Mikkey Dee, who banged for Motörhead during its final years, the band ripped through highlights from across Motörhead’s remarkable run.
For the Record
3:58 p.m. April 10: An earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of Mikkey Dee as Mickey.
The tribute served as a tragic reminder of what Alice in Chains’ Inez described as a second death that’s equally hard to grasp: the demise of Motörhead.
“That’s one of the heaviest things to wrap my head around today,” said Inez before offering cussed consolation. “They were never the type of band to ride out gracefully into the sunset. That, of course, is not the Motörhead way. Motörhead eats ... sunsets for breakfast.”
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