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James Hetfield Got Lemmy Kilmister’s Cremated Ashes Tattooed Into His Middle Finger

The affection that James Hetfield feels for Motörhead’s late frontman, Lemmy Kilmister, is well documented: Metallica have covered “Overkill” dozens of times, the whole band once performed as “The Lemmys” at Kilmister’s 50th birthday bash, and Hetfield’s lyrics to Metallica’s “Murder One” is basically a string of Kilmister references. Now Kilmister will forever be a part of Hetfield since the singer blended some of the Motörhead frontman’s cremains into tattoo ink and got an Ace of Spades tat on his right middle finger.

“With the steady hand of friend and tattoo artist [Corey Miller] … a salute to my friend and inspiration Mr. Lemmy Kilmister,” Hetfield wrote in an Instagram post via the band’s account. “Without him, there would be NO Metallica. Black ink mixed with a pinch of his cremation ashes that were so graciously given to me. So now, he is still able to fly the bird at the world.”

After Kilmister’s death in 2015, Metallica also paid tribute to the bassist and singer, whose whiplash-inducing tempos and punk attitude influenced the band in its formative days. “Motörhead had a lot to do with Metallica sitting here right now,” Hetfield said in a 2016 Sirius XM interview. “But just Lemmy as an entity, as kind of a father figure, he helped us a lot. He was unafraid. And he was a character. And he was himself. And we all respected that so much. He did his own thing to the last breath. No matter who you are, how could you not be inspired by that?”

“In the summer of 1981, I followed Motörhead around on tour,” Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said in the same interview. “That was what made me want to be in a band. When I came back to Southern California and called up James and said, ‘Listen, we’ve got to give this a shot,’ … Motörhead is the catalyst.”

Ulrich paid tribute to Kilmister in a Rolling Stone interview shortly after Kilmister’s death. He described how welcoming Kilmister had been to him on that 1981 tour and how it coalesced into the formation of Metallica. “They took me in, they let me be a part of what they were doing, and it inspired James and I to form this band based on that kind of attitude and that kind of aesthetic of engaging with your fans and being open and transparent and letting people in and sharing the experience,” he said. “We were all just a bunch of lost fucking kids who wanted to belong to something that was bigger than ourselves.”

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Hetfield also championed Motörhead for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “There’s no more rock & roll person on this planet than Lemmy and Motörhead,” he said in 2016.

A portion of Kilmister’s ashes were enshrined at the heavy metal festival Wacken last year.

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