Stay clean and keep swinging

While I was away, a bunch of people died. I’d like to talk about two of them–Lemmy and David Bowie.

I never knew Bowie–or saw him in concert–but I’ve been to more than my fair share of Motorhead shows and I’ve met Lemmy several times. The last thing he was, in my estimation, was a saint. But he was something. Something remarkable. A rare constant in an ever-changing world. Anyone with eyes to see must have suspected he was on his last legs, yet it’s still inconceivable Lemmy’s gone, because he was Motorhead and he was rock’n’roll, and he should have lived forever and a day.

David Bowie meant much less to me, but that’s not important because my only point is there are lessons to be taken from both men’s lives.

I’ve never done nothing that’s ever gonna shame my life
— Limb from Limb

If it was about anything beyond a million girls and a million real good times, Lemmy’s life was all about integrity and self respect. He knew who he was and what he wanted to do. And he did it. Every day. He lived it. And fuck ’em if they couldn’t take a joke.

Ditto Bowie, I think. Except he also proved that genre was no boundary to genius. When people were comfortable with one Bowie, he gave them another one.

Additionally, both men built or became their own personal iconography. And, in the space of four short years at a time when the Sex Pistols were kicking over statues and hitting reset, et cetera, Lemmy, Bowie, and their collaborators made eight of the greatest records ever made.


So what are the lessons to take from these two remarkable lives? They’re obvious, really, but sometimes we need reminding.

— Be who you are.
— Be honest about that, with yourself and your readers.
— Don’t be afraid to hop genres, if you have something to say. But don’t whore yourself to fashion just because.
— Don’t let others define you. Be your own brand.
— When you’re feeling creative, push your limits. Go for it, then go for it again. Never hold back.

Or to put it another way, stay clean and keep swinging.


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