Barger, Founder of Hells Angels, Dies at Age 83
By: Elaine Wang
Founder of Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, Sonny Barger died at the age of 83 due to liver cancer. He passed away peacefully June 29th in his home in Livermore, California, after a lifetime of riding motorcycles.
Barger’s nonconformist life was packed full of adventures, rebellion, murder, drugs, and most importantly, motorcycles. As the founder of the infamous motorcycle club Hells Angels, where members consist of nearly all-white, experienced men, his pastimes included weightlifting and zooming across the open highway.
The Hells Angels’ most notorious act was the 1969 Rolling Stones concert incident, where 18-year-old concertgoer Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by a Hells Angel. Barger and his crew, hired to provide security, were preventing fans from reaching the stage, according to Barger, who was present.
Even after the band started playing, the crowd, including Hunter, still tried to rush the stage. Hunter fired a shot, injuring a Hells Angel. Other Angels worked quickly to restrain Hunter, punching, kicking, and even stabbing him, Barger recalls. One Angel was charged with fatally stabbing him, but was charged not guilty after claiming it was self-defense.
At school, Ralph Hubert Barger Jr. was a horrible student – he hated being told what to do and school in general, and was constantly getting suspended for swearing on school grounds and hitting his teacher. At the age of 14, he started smoking. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high school and joined the Army with a forged birth certificate. A year later, military authorities discovered the forgery and kicked him out.
Barger later stated in his autobiography, “To become a real man, you need to join the army first and then do some time in jail.”
Back home and jobless, Sonny stated that he “couldn’t get a grip on this nine-to-five working stuff”, and joined his biker group, the Oakland Panthers, in 1956. A year later, Barger founded the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Oakland, stating, “I needed a close-knit club of men who could jump on their bikes, ride cross-country if they wanted to, and not abide by rules or clocks.”
During his lifetime, Barger wrote many books, including “Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga”, “Dead in 5 Heartbeats”, “6 Chambers, 1 Bullet”, “Freedom: Credos From the Road”, and “Ridin’ High, Livin’ Free”. He has also appeared in several movies, including “Hells Angels on Wheels”
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