Best known as bassist, vocalist, songwriter and founding member of the rock band Motörhead as well as a member of Hawkwind, heavy metal musician Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister was born on this day 24 December 1945, in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. His appearance, including his friendly mutton chops, prominent facial moles and gravelly voice, have made him a cult icon.
Lemmy started his musical career in Stockport, where he joined local bands The Rainmakers and then The Motown Sect who enjoyed playing northern clubs for three years. Then in 1965 he joined The Rockin’ Vickers who signed a deal with CBS, released three singles and toured Europe, and were reportedly the first British band to visit Yugoslavia.
In 1971, Lemmy joined the Prog rock band, Hawkwind, who were based in Ladbroke Grove, London, as a bassist and vocalist. Although he had no previous experience as a bass guitarist, he quickly developed a distinctive style that was strongly shaped by his early experience as a rhythm guitarist, this is best demonstrated on songs like Space Ritual. He also provided the lead vocals on a number of songs, including the band’s biggest UK chart single, “Silver Machine“, which reached No.3 in 1972.
Unfortunately In 1975 Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind after he was arrested at the Canadian border in Windsor, Ontario, on drug possession charges. He then went on to form a new band called “B4$t4rd” with guitarist Larry Wallis (former member of the Pink Fairies, Steve Took’s Shagrat and UFO) and drummer Lucas Fox. Lemmy’s connection with Took (formerly of T. Rex) was not limited to Wallis, as they were personal friends and Took was the stepfather to Lemmy’s son, Paul. He was informed that a band with this name would never get a slot on “Top of the Pops”, so Lemmy changed the band’s name to “Motörhead” – the title of the last song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind.
Soon after, both Wallis and Fox were replaced with guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and with this line-up the band began to achieve success, their sound appealed to both Lemmy’s original fans and, eventually, to fans of the punk rock scene. In fact, he asserts that he generally feels more kinship with punks than with heavy metal; he even played with The Damned for a handful of gigs when they had no regular bassist.
Lemmy’s guttural vocals were unique in the world of rock at that time, as they would not be copied until the rise in popularity in punk. The band’s success peaked between 1980 and 1981 with a number of UK chart hits, including the classic single “Ace of Spades“, which is still a crowd favourite today and the Number 1 on the live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith.
Motörhead have since gone on to become one of the most influential bands in the heavy metal music genre and are still performing and releasing records to this day. Despite Motörhead’s many member changes over their 35-year history, the current lineup of Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee has remained constant since 1995. Lemmy has also worked with a number of other musicians over his career and occasionally guests with Hawkwind. He wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S” for the Ramones, which he still plays in his live sets as a tribute to the band. He was brought in as a songwriter for Ozzy Osbourne’s 1991 No More Tears album, providing lyrics for the tracks “Hellraiser“, (which Motörhead would later record themselves and release a single), “Desire”, “I Don’t Want to Change the World” and the single “Mama I’m Coming Home”.
Unfortunately in 2000, Lemmy was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, and this led to a brief hospitalisation, but he again appeared with Motörhead at WrestleMania 17. then in Novembert 2002 Lemmy published his autobiography, White Line Fever .
In 2005, Motörhead won their first Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category with their cover of Metallica’s “Whiplash”. In October 2009 it was announced that he had been involved in recording a cover of “Stand by Me” featuring Lemmy on vocals and bass, Dave Lombardo of Slayer on drums and produced by DJ and producer Baron. The song was made for professional skateboarder Geoff Rowley.
In 2011 Lemmy also appeared on the song Debauchery As A Fine Art from Michael Monroe’s new solo album called Sensory Overload.