The Real Reason Motorhead Broke Up

"We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll!"

Such were the revelatory words of Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, lead singer of Motörhead, spoken at the beginning of a 2006 concert (viewable on YouTube). Soon after, Lemmy's nicotine-and-booze-throttled rasp tore through the air. He riffed his way onward and towards his eventual oblivion from cancer and heart disease. Motörhead's brutal ideals were no more and no less than Lemmy's tagline spoken at that very concert: gambling, alcohol, speed (the drug), fighting, and biking, typified in Lemmy's larger-than-life, rockstar persona. This was the band's appeal. That, and Kilmister's sweet handlebar mustache. In fact, as HighSnobiety recounts, Motörhead's aesthetic, down to the blackletter, gothic font they used for their logo, might have had a bigger impact on the world than their 22 studio albums.

Is it any wonder why, then, when Kilmister passed away on December 26, 2015, that Motörhead and their "metal umlaut" were no more? A mere three days later, as recounted on Expressen, drummer Mikkey Dee said, "Motörhead is over, of course. Lemmy was Motörhead." That was it. No drama, no infighting while the band was active from 1975. Just a quiet farewell. Mickey Dee went on to say, "He was terribly gaunt, he spent all his energy on stage and afterwards he was very, very tired. It's incredible that he could even play, that he could finish the Europe tour. It was only 20 days ago. Unbelievable."

Lemmy could only cheat death for so long

Of course, that was the type of dogged rebelliousness that the public had come to expect from Motörhead, especially Kilmister, who wasn't even diagnosed with cancer until 2 days before his 70th birthday, as Rolling Stone states — a mere two weeks before his death. He had been experiencing severe health troubles before then, and had cut down from half-a-gallon of Jack Daniel a day to a mere four or five screwdrivers (vodka and orange juice). By the time he was diagnosed, though, it was far too late. And when he was gone, he took the band's energy and identity with him. In fact, over the 40 years of Motörhead's existence, Lemmy was its sole, constant member (he was also the band's founder), per ProgSphere, while other musicians filed in and out.

Apparently, Kilmister took the news of his unavoidable, impending death better than anyone. This makes sense, after all: he was a true, lifelong gambler. As the lyrics to Motörhead's biggest hit "Ace of Spades" (watchable on YouTube) say, "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 forever." For awhile, however, it seemed like Lemmy Kilmister might do exactly that. Who else would be able to cheat death at its own game for so long, except perhaps by playing an ace of spades hidden up his sleeve?