R.I.P. Christopher Lee, Metal Icon

Christopher Lee in the music video for "The Bloody Verdict of Verden"
Christopher Lee in the music video for "The Bloody Verdict of Verden"
YouTube screen grab

British actor Christopher Lee, who died this week at the age of 93, will be remembered for many iconic roles, including Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, Dracula in the classic 1958 film version and several sequels, and Scaramanga in the 1974 James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun. But to legions of fans, he will also be forever remembered as perhaps the greatest octogenarian heavy metal singer who ever lived.

Lee, the great-grandson of an opera singer, was blessed with a booming voice himself, which he used to great effect in 1973 film The Wicker Man and again in 1983's otherwise forgettable The Return of Captain Invincible. But he really found his calling much later in life, when the Italian symphonic metal band Rhapsody invited him to provide guest vocals on their 2005 track "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream." The then-82-year-old Lee crushed his part, and the track became a cult favorite among metal fans.

Following the success of his Rhapsody collaboration, Lee began receiving offers to provide guest vocals on other metal tracks, and eventually went on to record two solo albums of symphonic metal: 2010's Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, and a 2013 sequel, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death. Though both albums may seem like novelties to non-metalheads, they were well-received within the metal community. Lee even earned the "Spirit of Metal" honor at the 2010 Golden Gods Awards, the annual heavy metal awards show sponsored by Revolver magazine.

But perhaps Lee's greatest accomplishment as a recording artist, at least in the record books, is his 2013 Christmas single, "Jingle Hell," from his second of two holidays EPs, A Heavy Metal Christmas Too. When the song entered the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at No. 22, it made Lee, then 91, the oldest living artist ever to have a charting single.

So thank you, Christopher Lee, for your many great acting and singing achievements — and for reminding us that you're never too old to rock. 


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