The mourners gathered for the funeral of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister of Motörhead were greeted at a Hollywood hilltop chapel in a style close to the late rocker’s heart: with a shot of Jack Daniel’s at the door. The full house in his honor was a sad but often celebratory crowd of family and comrades, of devoted road crew and platinum-selling rockers who called him a friend, a “pirate” and a personal hero.
There were guest books to sign and fistfuls of commemorative guitar picks inscribed with an update of Lemmy’s personal credo: “Born to lose, lived to win.”
It was the beginning of a full Saturday of testimonials and, later, swelling Sunset Strip bar tabs for toasts to the late singer-bassist, who died suddenly on December 28th after a diagnosis of terminal cancer. “This is like no wake I’ve ever been in. People are celebrating his life, not mourning his death,” Gene Simmons of Kiss told Rolling Stone outside the chapel at Forest Lawn Memorial cemetery. “He was extremely comfortable in his own skin. And maybe that’s a lesson for all of us.”
The altar was transformed into a shrine, with two of Lemmy’s bass amplifiers (nicknamed “Hammer” and “VROOM”) standing tall on either side. There were photos of his beloved band from different eras, and a large Iron Cross made of black and white flowers with the words “RIP LEMMY.” At the center was an urn with Lemmy’s ashes shaped like his black cavalry hat and crossed-sword insignia.
In the pews were generations of rockers in tears and high spirits from Black Sabbath, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest and Anthrax, among others. At the podium, bassist Mike Inez, from Alice in Chains, described the honoree as an inspiration and a man of singular cool. “There was one Elvis Presley, one Little Richard, one Steve McQueen and one Lemmy,” said Inez. “Motörhead is no longer, and that is one of the heaviest things to wrap my head around.”
Among the musicians closest to Lemmy in recent years was Slash, who stood behind the podium in a black leather jacket and described his late friend as having “more integrity in one finger than a room full of rock & rollers, and straight-up honest, 100 percent loyal.” Judas Priest singer Rob Halford said he was a “man who lived life on his own terms, a rock & roll maverick.”
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian once again labeled him a rock & roll “pirate,” a rare but particular breed of rocker, seemingly indestructible. In his closing speech, Dave Grohl recalled his first meeting Lemmy in the Nineties, after Nirvana was gone and his Foo Fighters were still new, and recalled the very first words the Motörhead icon said: “I’m sorry about your friend,” referring to Kurt Cobain’s death.
The service ended after two hours, and mourners exited the chapel, but one who lingered at the altar was Nik Turner, Lemmy’s old space-rock bandmate from Hawkwind. He wore a tilted black trilby hat and lifted a saxophone to play “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and repeated the joyful melody as he walked toward the door.