What did Lemmy teach us?
Lemmy was an impressive figure in the music industry and it’s beautiful to see that such a wide swathe of humanity is paying tribute to the man. Of course, I’ve been doing this blog for so long that by now when something like this happens all I can think after the initial mourning is “What can we learn from Lemmy in furthering our own path in the industry?” The man was able to be a professional musician for fifty years for a reason and he stands as a fitting testament to all the tenacity and madness that success in this screwed up world requires. I don’t usually do listicles on this site but for some reason it felt appropriate, so here are five things that I think that Lemmy taught us.
5. Have Your Own Look
One thing that not enough people realize is the extent to which Lemmy changed the world of fashion and defined cool. He was this iconic figure who brought together both punks and metalheads whilst simultaneously garnering more than a little attention from the outside world. He managed to do this by having an aesthetic that almost no one else could emulate, though countless thousands have tried, myself included. What Lemmy realized is that as long as you are willing to be yourself then you can help to create something that can bring people together, and Lemmy was nothing if not an iconoclast. Though most people never seemed to think that Lemmy was an especially forceful personality, he wasn’t afraid to be wholly himself, and this helped to make him into a figure who will reign over the world of heavy metal for years and years to come.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Trust People
In his excellent autobiography White Line Fever Lemmy discusses how in his early years he was screwed over by managers time and time again. Yet that didn’t stop him from trusting in the fundamental good of people. While the book makes it clear that he learned to be more cautious he definitely was willing to have a manager who guided his band almost as much as he did. He knew that he couldn’t do it all and he wasn’t afraid to delegate work out to others in order for him to continue being well, Lemmy. Lemmy realized the importance of having a network of trusted friends to help your band along and he used this as the basis for years of hard work that ended up shaping the community that he loved. He understood that we all need to work together if we want to help build a better tomorrow. Trust is what this whole thing is founded upon, and Lemmy realized that and kept up the faith even in the face of trials and tribulations.
3. Handle Your High
Lemmy’s prodigious drug and alcohol habits are well known and have been documented just about everywhere. Here’s the thing though, unlike many of his peers, Lemmy never needed to go to rehab and no one ever seems to claim that Lemmy was at one point or another ‘out of control’ except of course, Lemmy himself! Despite his incredible appetites all reports seem to indicate that Lemmy did a good job of keeping himself in line and navigating just about any imaginable circumstance with a measure of class that rivaled even his most sober companions. Lemmy kept his head on his shoulders even has he downed bottle after bottle of Jack Daniels and consumed frankly ridiculous amounts of methamphetamines, even into his last days. This is a crucial part to what makes the man so great and should not be forgotten in your own career. While people like to look up to hard parteirs they start to pity them when they turn into bumbling wrecks. It’s fine to use drugs and alcohol, just be sure you can keep yourself in check and for heavens sakes, try and make sure that you’ll be okay in the long term.
2. Stick To Your Guns
Lemmy was a man of, shall we say… controversial tastes. His collection of Nazi memorabilia was world renowned and he even owned a tank. He did a bunch of drugs and was open about it and also wore an iron cross as a distinct part of his aesthetic, just to top it all off. Of course, the man himself wasn’t a Nazi, saying with typical Lemmy grit, “My black girlfriend has no problem with this stuff!” Beyond that – he showed a clear morality, one that left him an outlaw but that also revealed the incredibly decent human being underneath. His inherent goodness allowed him to stick to his guns and push forward with ideas that he knew would work, even if record labels and managers opposed him. He wasn’t afraid to take one for the team if he though it could lead to a better future for the band that he loved. Lemmy threw it all aside for rock and roll, an admirable asset for anyone in a band trying to really make it.
1. It Doesn’t Matter What Others Think
This is the man who wore Daisy Dukes because they were comfortable. This is the guy who slept with just about anyone and said we should all have lots of sex to try to and achieve a vaguely ‘coffee colored’ humanity in order to end racism. Lemmy just didn’t care what others thought of him. He viewed this entire thing as a joke and did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. If he wanted to put out a cello driven title track for a crucial album, as he did on 1916, then he did, if he wanted to tell the UK Parliament to legalize heroin he did, the man was simply with it. He knew exactly what he stood for and went forward, not just in the face of adversity, but against people who thought he was just some drugged out old fool only to end up proving that he was in fact one of the smartest and most talented people to ever walk the earth. There’s no reason why you can’t look at his example and strive to do the same.
Lemmy is god, all hail Lemmy.
And maybe take a couple of lessons from him too.