Talking About The Transcendent Power of Rock n' Roll (R.I.P. Lemmy)

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Lemmy of Motorhead / Getty Images

I am not usually one of those on the Internet joining in the massive displays of grief that always appear nowadays after a celebrity of any merit or notoriety dies. Not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with that – it’s just not my thing. Such was my initial reaction to the news of hearing, a week and a half ago, that Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, bassist and frontman for Motörhead, had died. I was going to stick to this rule and not even acknowledge his death on any of my social media sites until I started thinking about the effect that a number of Motörhead songs have had on me over the years. I am not being facetious when I say this – Rock n’ Roll music has saved my life so many times over the years – psychologically,spiritually and yes, I believe even literally – I have lost count. The music of Lemmy and Motörhead have been a big part of this phenomenon. Who guitarist Pete Townshend once said that “Rock n’ Roll might not solve your problems, but it does let you dance all over them “. With the music of Motörhead it has always been more like the music lets you kick the living shit out of them. Their music has always had a way of fostering the feeling in you of “not giving a fuck”, which sometimes, I believe, is necessary for survival in our culture. My three favorite Motörhead songs – “Killed by Death”, “Stay Clean” and “Ace of Spades”will always be sacred to me because they are prime examples of the inherent ability of Rock n’ Roll music to allow and enable you,if just momentarily, to rise above the situations and circumstances of your life. The sentiments from these three songs echo the band’s unofficial slogan of “Born to Lose, Live to Win”, which is just another way of saying live your life to the hilt – because one day you are going to physically die just like every other human being. For the uninitiated, the refrain from “Killed by Death” says these words :

But it don’t make no difference
‘Cos I ain’t gonna be, easy, easy
The only time I’m easy’s when I’m
Killed by death, Killed by death
Killed by death, Come on!

And the words from “Stay Clean “, which is a reference to staying free of the negativity and the “filthy rotten lies” of society as you try to stay true to yourself and your dreams, encourage the listener to :

Don’t be scared, live to win
Although they’re always gonna tell you it’s a sin

and ends with lead singer Lemmy admonishing the listener to

Stay clean
Stay clean
Stay clean
Stay clean
It’s your only hope


And it is the hope that Rock n’ Roll music can give you, that arms you with a sense of transcendence that can propel to want to try to get the most out of your life here on Earth, that causes our eternal love for it. The music can do this for you even as you recognize your own mortality. Lemmy’s and Motörhead’s signature song will always be the song “Ace of Spades” with lyrics that sum up everything :

You know I’m born to lose and gambling’s for fools
But that’s the way I like it, baby
I don’t wanna live for ever

And alas, Lemmy, like the rest of us, wasn’t destined to live forever. But while he was here he gave us the gift of his music, for which we all should be thankful and say RIP Lemmy RIP .









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