A while back, I ended up finding out a bit more about the heavy metal giant – James Hetfield. Along with other heavy metal groups his band Mateallica credits Motorehead as their key inspiration. On hearing of his death, they tweeted
“Lemmy, you are one of the primary reasons this band exists. We’re forever grateful for all of your inspiration.”
Having learned of James’s relationship with his Dad it was interesting to discover that Lemmy didn’t have a great dad either, referring to him as a “nasty little weasel” in the live fast die old documentary.
His Dad, who was a vicar (I think he was an ex RAF chaplain), left him and his mother when he was just 3 months old. A brief meeting with him 25 years later left Lemmy less than impressed and I think that was it was far as he was concerned.
It may have been coincidence that one of the first band he played in was called the rocking vicars but his feelings towards his dad must have coloured, not just his band names and lyrics but also his views on family, fatherhood and God.
“there is not divine being who is all powerful otherwise it wouldn’t be this ****** up would it? That was one of the first reactions I had to the church. My father was a vicar. You know,. I thought to myself if you were a vicar in touch with God how come him and my mother are so desperately unhappy that they had to break up. You know. And how is it that the catholic church says that I have to be declared illegitimate for you/her? to marry a catholic man. My step father. You know. How could the church do that if they were in touch with God. So **** God and **** the devil and **** the church too. You know. I am responsible for my actions. I don’t need to hide behind nothing. The devil didn’t make me do it. I did it. Whatever I did.” From the live fast die old documentary.
He had a couple of children that he knew of. One I think was adopted straight away and as not been in contact and he only found out about the other when he was 6 years old. Asked about whether he wished he had been there for his son he said:
“No. you know. I don’t think it’s that important. He was a great boy and I am very proud of him but I didn’t feel I owed him anything. He was brought up by his mum and so was I. so as far as I am concerned that’s as good a start in life as you can have from anybody. He is a fine young man. He makes a great contribution to the music scene. He plays wonderfully well. Much better than me. And he was an accident while we were having fun. ” From the live fast die old documentary.
It’s tempting to assume that given his lifestyle and the lack of a father growing up, Lemmy would not of been a great dad himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listing to his son speak at the funeral it sounds like he was actually a rather good dad.
“he was not a conventional father. He was not around when I was growing up. But I never once felt betrayed by him over that. I never once harboured a shred of blame against him for it. Because he was truly a free spirit. And I recognised that in him the first time I met him when I was six years old….I loved and admired him more than anything else in this world for being so true to himself. It didn’t matter to me that we didn’t get so much time together in my early years because to me as a child he was an enigma. I was fascinated by him. And I only ever felt love and admiration for this wild and long haired man who was cooler than everyone else in the room at any time any place. I like us all was drawn to his unassuming magnetism. They say you can’t choose your parents. Well I won the lottery when I got Lemmy. Because Lemmy Kilminster was my father. And he always will be. And noting can ever change or alter that fact. And I would not have it any other way. You were perfect. My one and only rock and roll daddy. If I could only stand on your shoulders what a view I would have. I love you more than life itself. Travel well my dear father. You are back out on the road for the longest tour to the great gig in the sky. We will never never foget you. I love you.”
At his funeral Micky Dee (amazing drummer for motorhead) said so his son:
Lemmy “was talking a lot about you as we were touring with him. Yiou were very special to him”
Although Lemmy wasn’t there for the first 6 years, he gave his son the key gifts of acceptance, encouragement, presence, identity, connection to a bigger world and love. In fact these things seemed to spill out of him all the time. He was actually, in some significant and key ways, a Father figure to many people.
It was amazing to hear first hand, how Larse of the heavy metal mega group Metallica was kind of fathered and encouraged, by Lemmy when he was just a teenage fan. Famously when he was 14 he was sick in Lemmy’s hotel room so I’m not saying a he was Fathered well in every way but Lemmy’s acceptance and encouragement had a massive effect on him. He was often invited backstage with open arms and made him feel like he belonged to something greater than himself. Here’s what he said at the funeral:
“it was the biggest gig of the summer and Lemmy still had time for little old me…I was 18 years old and these events made a huge indescribable difference in my life over the course of that summer. It made me want to be in a band. It made me want to form a band. It made me want to be a musician. Be part of a collective. Be part of the craziness of the travelling rock and role circus. And maybe one day 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.
So in the 1000’s of interviews I have done since then I have always cited Motorhead and Lemmy as the main inspiration and primary reason why Metallica exists. Both musicaly and attitude wise. So thank you Lemmy for helping to shape who I am today. Thank you Lemmy for the open door. For the music. The drinks. The laughter. The stories. Never judging us. Always making me feel so much part of something that was bigger than myself. And thank you for always mastering the fine balancing act of being just enough of a rock star to be cool but not too much at once to be uncool. Thank you for taking a picture of me with barf all over me and putting it on the inner sleeve or your album. That was the ultimate seal of approval. I will always be proud to have known you and to shout from every roof top how much you meant to me and how your attitude and all round coolness has inspired me over the last 37 years” Lars Ulrich
He was not alone in offering these sentiments.
First time Dave Grohl the lead singer of the Foo Fighters met him 20 years ago he said to lemmy “excuse me, I don’t want to bother you but you have influenced me so much, you are my musical hero. I am a musician and I play in the Foo Fighters.” He didn’t get the brush off, but was warmly accepted and befriended.
Others had a similar experience of Lemmy’s big hearted fatherly encouragement and friendship. And not just in the musical world. He developed a great friend with the wrestler Triple H who came out to loud Motorhead music.
“he was an inspiration [to]…live your life for you..what you want to do. He did it his way right until the last day. If there is a better way to go out I do’t know what it is.” Triple H
Again, I’m not saying Lemmy had the right philosophy of life or always gave the right advice, but I think he had a Father’s heart. So may people when they get success or power turn out to be mean and small minded. Lemmy seemed unaffected by these things and only seemed to grow in generosity.
That said, it’s still sad to think that Lemmy never got to know God has his perfect heavenly Father. How tragic that his own Father, who should have pointed the way, ended up sending him in the other direction.
The image of God in each one of us is never fully ruined. There remains in even the most ardent rebels, traces, sometimes large magnificent ruins, of our perfect creator. Such seems to have been the case with Lemmy. There is even a wonderful redemptive element to his life. Having had a bad father himself, who left him at an early age, he was able to be a better father to his own son and have a signification role in affirming and encouraging other young men.