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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger dies aged 83 from liver cancer

Sonny Barger. Picture: Instagram

Sonny Barger. Picture: Instagram

Published Jul 1, 2022


Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger has died aged 83 from liver cancer.

The biker, writer, self-styled outlaw and “Sons of Anarchy” actor passed away on Wednesday surrounded by his fourth wife, Zorana, and other loved ones.

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In a Facebook post, published after his death, Barger said: “If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I'm gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing.”

He went on in the post: “I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club.

“Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, I’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

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“Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honour.”

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Real name Ralph Hubert Barger, he said in his memoir the Hells Angels were merely a small club in San Francisco before he came onboard.

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He created the Oakland Hells Angels in California, the biker club’s most significant ‘charter’, and is credited with building it into a globally recognised gang.

Barger defended the group despite it facing accusations from several authorities of being a criminal organisation.

One of its biggest controversies involved a Rolling Stones fan being fatally stabbed by a member at the band’s free Altamont Concert in 1969.

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Barger’s former lawyer Fritz Clapp confirmed on Thursday Barger had died at home with stage four liver cancer.

He said: “He’d lived a long life, and he’d been ill for some time. Everybody around him had pretty much been prepared emotionally for it.”

Barger’s run-ins with the law included being acquitted along with three others in 1972 of murdering a Texas drug dealer and setting a home alight.

His rap sheet also included arrests for drink driving, assaults with deadly weapons, kidnapping, drug-dealing and racketeering, and he was jailed on drugs charges and for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

FILE: Sonny Barger founded the motorcycle club almost 50 years ago, has battled cancer and heart disease as fiercely as the law.

Barger was diagnosed in the 1980s with throat cancer after years of heavy smoking, and underwent surgery to have his vocal chords removed.

It prompted him to start an anti-smoking campaign under the message: “Want to be a rebel? Don’t smoke as the rest of the world.”

His books included Barger’s autobiography “Hell’s Angel”, along with the “Let’s Ride” motorcycling guide.

He features heavily in Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson’s “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” book, as well as Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, published in 1968.

Barger, who played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz in “Sons of Anarchy” had surgery for prostate cancer in 2012, resulting in the removal of his prostate and he was declared free of cancer until the disease was detected in his liver.