Sonny Barger, a founding member of the legendary Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and who for decades was the visible face of the controversial motorcycle gang, has died at the age of 83, according to his Facebook page.
With their leather vests with the winged skull logo on their backs and the roar of their engines as they traveled in numerous crews on American highways, the Hells Angels were for years a symbol of terror for many Americans, a banner of life counterculture.
Barger, born in 1938 as Ralph Hubert Barger, was a founding member of the original group of the international motorcycle club, based in Oakland, in the state of California (western), in 1957.
An immediate personal message was posted on his Facebook network profile: “If you are reading this message, then you will know that I am gone… Please know that I passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer.”
“Although I have had a public persona for decades, I have mainly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, family and close friends,” Barger said in the post.
As authorized branches of the club were established across the United States and as controversies surrounding the group’s activities, many of them illicit, escalated, Barger acted as a de facto spokesman, defending his outlaw lifestyle and the order.
Barger was present at the Rolling Stones’ famous free concert in Altmont, California, in 1969, for which the Hells Angels had been hired as a security force, using their bicycles as a makeshift barrier in front of the stage.
The rebellious musical journey on the rural Altamont Speedway is tragically remembered for the violent death of Meredith Hunter, a young black man who was beaten and stabbed to death by members of the Hells Angels after he brandished a gun near the stage while the Stones played.
By this time, the biker gang had already entered popular culture as a violent fraternity, through movies like 1967’s “Hells Angels on Wheels” starring a young Jack Nicholson, and in a best-selling book simply titled “Hells Angels on Wheels.” Angels”, a detailed profile written in 1966 by Hunter S. Thompson, who spent a year with the main group.
According to the Washington Post, Barger faced several charges of possession and use of weapons and along with a 1988 conviction for conspiracy to kill rival gang members, which earned him more than a decade in prison.
Due to throat cancer, his vocal cords were removed years later, forcing him to use an electronic device to speak.
Barger also had a role in the popular television series “Sons of Anarchy” -of the FX channel and whose first season was released in 2008- about a fictional biker gang similar to the Angels, playing a character named Lenny “The Pimp” Janowitz.