I’ve read countless “obituaries” and “profiles” about Ian Fraser Kilmister, aka “Lemmy”, these past two days. And I’ve read quite a few about Meadow George Lemon III, aka “Meadowlark Lemon”. And the difference between the two styles of coverage really bums me out.
Both were hugely influential, both brought joy to many people, both are held up by their peers as “good people”. And both deserve a fitting Eulogy. For the most part, the wonderful Mr. Lemon has received many. Lemmy, not so much.
Every piece I’ve read about Lemmy has been “had sex with thousands” “partied harder than Keith Richards” and even “wore tight jeans and bullet belts on his days off”.
Hell, the only thing I’ve heard that ignored all this tripe was some youngish German musician being interviewed on BBC World (I didn’t catch his name).
Lemmy, by art or craft, by destiny or accident, was a key figure in the invention of “Hard Rock” or “Heavy Metal” (he called it simply “Rock n Roll”), and even Ozzy Osbourne will tell you that “he was there before Black Sabbath”. Your record collection may or may not back that up, but the scene back then certainly would. People as diverse as Geddy Lee (Rush), Chris Squire (Yes), “Geezer” Butler (Black Sabbath) and Sting (The Police, Dune, Saturday Night Live) have mentioned being influenced by Lemmy’s “guitarist playing bass like a guitarist” grinding, aggressive tone. (Yes, though now he plays lute and recites poetry, back when Sting/the Police were raucous, he played bass through a distorted guitar amp. I know. I’ve played through his old amp.)
Prior to all this Heavy Metal business, the man was a vangaurd of British Prog (Hawkwind)! He has often joked that he only formed his own band so he “couldn’t get kicked out”.
He was a rock musician. A lot of rock musicians (and actors and politicians and just about anyone with spare time and money and access to modern medicine) have a lot of sex and a lot of drinks and a lot of whatever... So what, already?
I once worked for a British company named “Marshall Amplification”, which is somewhat popular in music circles, and as a result, had many casual interactions with Lemmy. He was a polite, no-nonsense fellow; salt-of-the-Earth in the best of ways. He always had time for his fans (which, I kid you not, are legion), and always seemed downright surprised that he had any fans at all. His favorite people were working-class people, and his largess among them is just as legendary as his musical career.
That’s right. “Musical Career”. He was beloved for his music, whether one likes it or not. He was beloved for his salty-but-warm personality. He was beloved for his solidarity with the working and “lower” classes. The millions who mourn him don’t give two shits about what he drank or who he fucked.
On 12/28/15, we lost two icons, men who excelled at their chosen craft, and excelled as “real people”. Two very different men who brought me, personally, an awful lot of happiness, joy, and escape.
Let’s give them both the credit and respect they deserve.