The Heavy Metal Tidal Wave that was Motorhead’s Umlaut

It’s been nearly a year since the untimely passing of Lemmy Kilmister, and up to now; some of us still feel the sadness and the void left by the legendary frontman. The Motörhead singer and bassist left a permanent mark in the music industry – more specifically the wide world of heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll. From his raspy singing voice and his impactful lyrics, to that signature lifestyle and iconic look, everything about him represented the genre through and through. However, above all, Lemmy and the rest of Motörhead wrote a grammatical rock ‘n’ roll style that – in more ways – shaped heavy metal.

Aside from injecting a more aggressive, heavier tone to rock, Motörhead is one of those diverging figures that started this umlaut revolution in metal. In hindsight, they weren’t the first band to incorporate those – what millennials call today as – emoji-like letters, but they certainly personified the tradition. In the underground and mainstream scenes, some of the first artists that come to mind are ‘60s German proggers Amon Düül and Blue Öyster Cult in the early ‘70s, respectively. A couple of years later, after Lemmy left his former band, Hawkwind, Motorhead – without the proper dots – was born. True to his personality, he added an umlaut over the second “o” to, in his own words, make it look mean.

There’s no denying how Motörhead have influenced many bands currently plying their trade in rock music. Truth be told, this effect reaches beyond the borders of rock, and music in general, into the more middle-of-the-road world of video gaming. The band has a themed collaboration/expansion mode with action-role-playing-game Victor Vran called Motörhead: Through the Ages. Additionally, they even have an online game on Slingo modestly named Motörhead Video Slot. In other areas outside music, like what was highlighted earlier, the band spearheaded the “coolness” of adding an unnecessarily vital umlaut.

Lemmy never hid the fact that he pinched the idea from Blue Öyster Cult, but for some strange reason, this small ripple turned into a huge tidal wave. Different heavy metal bands of that era followed Motörhead’s, and began integrating certain twists to their names. There are the likes of Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche, and The Accüsed, just to name a few in the genre. Outside heavy metal, Hüsker Dü and even R&B singer Jason Derulo are some of the first ones that come to mind (Derulo used an umlaut for his debut album to help fans pronounce his name correctly).

Motörhead’s umlaut was never a gimmick nor was it a grammatical necessity; it’s a simple testament of how they – as bona fide figures in the rock ‘n’ roll scene – are supreme influencers of their generation. It gave heavy metal its edge and individuality, as well as established Lemmy Kilmister as a true music icon and genius.