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Lemmy Of Motörhead And Rock Icon Dies At 70


Fans of music that is fast and loud - really loud - have lost someone important.


IAN KILMISTER: (Singing) You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools. But that's the way I like it, baby. I don't want to live forever.

SIEGEL: Ian Kilmister, known as Lemmy, was the bassist, frontman and founder of the band Motorhead. He died yesterday of cancer at the age of 70. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this story.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Lemmy kept Motorhead alive for decades, all while keeping up with his image as a rock god, hard-drinking, drugging, smoking guy. Also, he had an appreciation for Nazi paraphernalia. Lemmy did always have a thing for theatrics. In the '60s, he played guitar for a British band called The Rockin' Vickers.


HARRY FEENEY: (Singing) Dandy, you know you're moving much too fast.

LIMBONG: They played up the name by dressing the vicar part with black shirts and white collars. His career got louder when he picked up a base and joined the spacey rock band Hawkwind.


KILMISTER: (Singing) I got a silver machine. I got a silver machine.

LIMBONG: Lemmy sang lead on this song. It's called "Silver Machine," and it became Hawkwind's biggest hit. He was kicked out of the band in 1975 for a drug possession. He liked speed, he said. That's when Motorhead started.


KILMISTER: (Singing) Sunrise, wrong side of another day. Sky high and 6,000 miles away.

LIMBONG: Motorhead was known for blending punk and metal and wearing a lot of black. They inspired Metallica. They palled around with Slayer. You can spot Lemmy in an old Sex Pistols music video. If you were in LA there's a decent chance you would have seen him at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip. The band's official statement announcing his death said his favorite videogame from the Rainbow was taken to his house after he got really sick. He died sitting in front of it. Motorhead has 22 studio records under its belt. And Lemmy kept up the live fast, live hard image to the end. The song I'm going to go out on is the first track of the last record, which came out this year. It's called "Victory or Die," and it goes like this...


KILMISTER: (Singing) Victory or die.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.