The media has a tendency to build up personalities and play to the cults that spring up around them. The media also has the despicable tendency of reducing the same personalities to a pile of rubble once they fall out of favour with market trends. The subjects under the media’s consideration may begin their careers in the public eye without guile and being sincere to themselves, and to their craft, as much as anybody can remain sincere to themselves in the public eye. The media finds something saleable in a unique personality, exaggerates it to a larger than life proportion, and broadcasts it to the world.
But somewhere along the way, the need to play up to this blown up image overwhelms that which the person may have been initially. Dreams of grandeur are common enough, but before those dreams, there must have been a genuine love for the “thing” forming the ground under their feet. At this early stage, there is no consideration of fame or glory, just a childlike eagerness to express. At least this must be so for those having something real to express; the horse pulls the cart as should be and everything that follows can be accepted on the good grace of fortune.
This phenomenon applies far more to mainstream rock and pop than it does to harsh underground genres, metal or otherwise. In the case of the latter, where there has been a dearth of recognition from the mainstream for the longest time – and fortuitously so, too, for who in their right minds would want real music to be molested by commerce’s greedy paws, pragmatism notwithstanding – it is more often the fans themselves that elevate musicians to “celebrity” status. However, with underground music fans, and this does not include hipsters and posers, being more clued in than the norm, there is usually very real basis for this acknowledgement, and it lies rooted, first and foremost, in the musician’s talent in expressing himself within his chosen paradigm. The mainstream is little better than a pimp, selling the artist’s flesh and soul by the pound, but the underground and its inhabitants are the true patrons of art in the modern day. They reward what deserves rewarding and reject the rest.
Every now and then, however, the mainstream tries to appropriate something that patently does not fit in with its worldview. It treats it as a curio, some wild yet adorable animal that can be looked at from behind a safety shield. Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister has been subject to this treatment for many years, the relative mainstream having transformed him into a cultural icon of sorts without elucidating on anything deeper than his moles or distinct style of beard or his storied drinking and womanizing exploits.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that these aren’t parts of the total package or that Lemmy himself has not had a part to play in the perception of reckless cool that has coagulated around him. But here’s the funny thing; Lemmy has always managed to come out on the other side of his flirtations with fame, with dignity and poise in tact. You would have to travel to the far ends of the earth and risk falling off the proverbial edge before you could meet someone who has an unsavory thing to say about him. It seems remarkable that no tint of cynicism has touched him, that his honesty operating in the kind of industry that he is involved in remains redoubtable. Impressionable “Lemmy Is God!” types and dyed-in-the-wool veterans, both, openly endorse his integrity and power of will for having lasted as long as he has without a care for monetary returns.
A person in private can be entirely different from what he appears to be in public. But that is not of ultimate importance here; what is of importance is that the image of Lemmy, real or built up, is one of the last vestiges of an olden manhood that is fast disappearing before our eyes. No life can be without regrets but a life well-lived is one that subsists on an unyielding, incorruptible set of principles, allowing you to sleep at night knowing that you haven’t compromised on those principles and drawing succor from that fact to repeat the same process the day after. A life well-lived consists of discovering what you’re good at and love doing, and then channeling all of your vital force in that direction for no reason other than that it is your one true calling in this world.
“Say what you mean and mean what you say” is a simple philosophy that can have grave repercussions in the world of transactions but what greater peace of mind and conscience can human existence achieve than when it is actually implemented? All men relate and aspire to just such a life, and this, I believe, is the reason why the idea of Lemmy resonates universally. It is not about Ian Kilmister, though it is that as well; it is about what he, his music and his words represent. It is about what we find lacking in ourselves as men and would want to strive towards in this life. Be it man or image, the ideal of Motorhead and Lemmy, then, becomes a truly inspirational agent for self-improvement and change.