Rock ’n’ roll has known but three genuine pirates: AC/DC’s Bon Scott, the Stones’ Keith Richards … and Lemmy Kilmister. The first succumbed to reckless lifestyle choices at age 33. But the latter two are still with us, having survived all manner of self-abuse for 70 and 68 years, respectively. Of the remainders, only Lemmy has been proclaimed to be God … at least by the late Harold Ramis in the 1994 film Airheads.
I sipped Jack with Lemmy the night Metallica donned the Motörhead frontman’s famous black hair, whiskers and warts, and slammed out covers in honor of the iron-fisted vocalist’s 50th birthday. Nearly 20 years later, with a slot at Coachella and an 8 p.m. April 17 performance at the Pearl at the Palms (co-billed with fellow metal masters Megadeth, $45-$95), Lemmy is still the man.
That is if he’s up to performing. Recently, mortality has been staring one of rock’s immortals in the face. Time, tide and bad diet have caught up with our rebellious hero in the form of a slew of health issues, including diabetes, a hematoma and heart problems that led to the installation of both a pacemaker and a defibrillator. Lemmy’s health even led Motörhead to twice cancel their European tour.
In November, Lemmy told The New York Times, “I’m paying for the good times, I suppose.” Penance includes regular exercise, giving up smoking and throttling back the alcohol.
When I reached out to longtime manager Todd Singerman to get an update on my old friend’s condition, he responded, “We can talk, but we’re not going into specifics about Lemmy’s health.” In this case, no news can’t be good news. Hard rockers may find it soft to pray, but I’m putting my hands together for this hero and friend.
Regardless if the clock is ticking, the riffs are still kicking. Motörhead’s new LP, Aftershock, their 21st, is lava-rock solid.
“Heartbreaker,” “Crying Shame” and “Death Machine” are vintage-style Motörhead, inspiring elevated heartbeat and robust head bobs. His vocals are all fire and fury, delivering thrash-paced gems and scratch-throated sizzling sonnets.
Lemmy told me once that he expected to be “Killed by Death” onstage, mid-song, fists clenched around his sacred four-string bass. And while I’d love to bear witness to that last performance, let’s hope that the whiskey lover’s reported lifestyle changes are sufficient to make it a long ways off.