I loved Motörhead’s music growing up so it was really sad to hear that Lemmy, the lead singer and only original band member left, died recently. Lemmy’s passing caused me to listen again to some of their music (which still sounds good) and find out a bit more about him as a person. It was a journey that would take me to the other side of some easy stereotypes and simple assumptions.
As some of the obituaries predictably put it he was finally “Killed by death”, which wasn’t his only song to tackle the subject of death by a long shot.
I’m not afraid of death – I often sing about it.
He was asked once “Do I think about death a lot?” to which he replied “It’s difficult not to when you’re 65, son”. Here’s a quote from a recent independent article:
“In your twenties, you think you are immortal, in your thirties, you hope you are immortal. In your forties, you just pray it doesn’t hurt too much, and by the time you reach my age, you become convinced that, well, it could be just around the corner Lemmy
Asked in the live fast die old documentary
Will you ever stop performing? He replied:
“What, after death? No. I’ll have to stop then. I think.”
At another point in the documentary he hold’s up a packet of cigarettes with some sort of health warning on it along the lines of “smoking kills”, and says “I’m 57, it’s not true!”. That said, he was well aware that his lifestyle was a risky one. He credits his longlivity to a strong constitution (“apparently I am still indestructible”) and a lot of luck.
“I don’t really recommend the lifestyle because most people die of it. A lot of my friends are dead who shouldn’t be…it’s all down to random, luck. ”.
Asked if death scared him he says:
“No. You’ve got to have a sense of humour haven’t you. At the funeral I’m going to have them play laurel and hardy themes. De de dum. De de dum. Deedle-di-dum…”. They didn’t though.
In the same documentary he is asked how he would like to be remembered.
“As an honest man. As an honourable man. But that’s out of the question.”
The lyrics of his recent song “I know how to die” are thought provoking:
If I could find the cure I wouldn’t have to cry,
I know the law I know how to die.
Rotten to the core hang me out to dry…Cross your heart and hope to die.
The only cure for death I know of is to trust in the one who said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, John 11:25 (ESV). Knowing how to die is knowing Jesus, the only truly indestructible one: “anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.
At his funeral someone used the expression “passed away” rather than died. Another said “here’s to you Lem. I’m sure I’ll see you in my dreams. Have a good time up there”. I think it was Mikkey Dee who said “He’s got a band now on the other side…hopefully writing some new tunes…I don’t know”. Hi sons said he was “back out on the road for the longest tour to the great gig in the sky”. At times like this it seems inconceivable that death is the end of a person. There must be more. But what and how would we know?
The last to speak was Dave Grohl, his good friend and lead singer of the Foo Fighters. The picture and sound cut out just before he said “lord knows neither am I”. I guess he was saying something like “Lemmy was not religious and Lord knows neither am I”. Then he read this song:
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, Lead me home.
When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, Lord, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
“cheers Lemmy I’ll miss you”
Then the funeral then ended and as the feedback from Lemmy’s guitar sounded everyone stood and clapped. I was left wondering why his funeral ended with those words. Knowing Jesus as our saviour and Lord is the only way to be lead safely home through death. Even if we call on him with our dying breath, having lived a life apart from him, he will forgive us and take us to be with him.