Sonny Barger, one of the earliest members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) and for decades the visible face of the outlaw motorcycle gang originating from California and with currently authorized chapters in half the world (including Barcelona since the feared Centurions were recognized by the mother house), he died at the age of 83, according to his Facebook page.
Although its origins are confusing, it seems clear that the Hells Angels were born in 1948 in Fontana, California, from the union of different motorcycle clubs made up in part by veterans of the Second World War dissatisfied back home to the gentrified American way of life. That tells at least the romantic legend of the group. With their leather vests or Texan clothes with the winged skull logo At their backs and the roar of their engines as they traveled down America’s highways, the Hells Angels were for years a symbol of terror for many Americans, a banner of countercultural life from which they would soon leap into criminal activity.
Barger, born in 1938 as Ralph Hubert Barger, was founding member of the pioneer Oakland chapter of the Hells Angelsalso California.
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 personality for decades, I have mainly enjoyed special time with my brothers at the club, my family and close friends,” Barger added 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 lifestyle outside of law and order.
Barger was present at the ignominious free festival organized by the Rolling Stones in Altamont, California, in 1969, for which the Hells Angels were hired as a security force. The idea was revealed as unfortunate as it sounds when members of the Hells Angels beat Meredith Hunter to death, a young black man who brandished a gun near the stage while the Stones were playing.
By this time, the 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 Hunter S. Thompson ‘Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga’, 1966. Thompson, by the way, ended up taking a sovereign beating from the bikers with whom he had filmed for a year: they wanted their share of the money earned by the journalist ‘at his expense’.
Role in ‘Sons of Anarchy’
According to the ‘Washington Post’, Barger had to face several charges for carrying and using weapons. Between this and a 1988 conviction for conspiracy to kill rival gang members, he spent more than a decade in prison.