Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger dies aged 83 after brief battle with cancer | Ents & Arts News | Today Headlines

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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger has died aged 83 following a brief battle with cancer.

The California biker, author and outlaw died surrounded by his wife, Zorana, and his “loved ones”.

In a Facebook post, posted after his death, Barger wrote, “If you read this post, you will know that I am gone. I have requested that this note be released immediately upon my passing.”

Born Ralph Hubert Barger, he wrote in his autobiography that the Hells Angels were a small club in San Francisco before joining them.

The Sons of Anarchy actor went on to create the Oakland Hells Angels in California – now the club’s most prominent charter – and is often credited with growing it into a global group.

“I’ve lived a long, beautiful life filled with adventure. And I’ve been privileged to be part of an amazing club,” his Facebook post continued.

“Although I had a public figure for decades, I mostly spent special times with my club brothers, family and close friends.”

He ended the note by saying, “Keep your head up, stay loyal, stay free and always enjoy honor.”

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Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger (center), photographed in 1965. Photo: AP
Ralph "Son" Barger, left, the founder and president of the Hells Angels chapter of Oakland, Calif., is led to a waiting van by a U.S. Marshal after being pulled over for an explosives charge at the Federal Building in San Francisco, the Nov. 10, 1987. Hells Angels from five states were arrested for drug and arms trafficking.  (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) PICS: AP
Mr Barger after being arrested for an explosives charge in 1987. Pic: AP

From prison to anti-tobacco activist

Hells Angels have been accused of being a criminal organization by a number of authorities, but Mr Barger has defended the group on numerous occasions, including during one of its biggest controversies when a fan at the concert Free of Altamont in 1969 was fatally stabbed by a member.

He also had run-ins with the law. In 1972, he and three others were acquitted of murdering a Texas drug dealer and burning down a house.

He was subsequently imprisoned for possession of narcotics and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

Ralph, the leader of the Hells Angeles "Son" Barger and his wife Sharon are shown after his release from $100,000 bail in San Francisco on Friday, August 1, 1980. He spent more than a year in prison for federal racketeering conspiracy.  (AP Photo/Robert Houston) PIC: AP
Mr. Barger and his ex-wife Sharon in 1980. Photo: AP

In the early 1980s, Barger was diagnosed with throat cancer and had his vocal cords removed.

Following his diagnosis, he began to publicly advocate against smoking using the message, “Want to be a rebel? Don’t smoke like the rest of the world.”

He went on to write six books, his autobiography Hell’s Angel, Ridin’ High Livin’ Free, Dead In 5 Heartbeats, 6 Chambers 1 Bullet, Freedom and his motorcycle guide Let’s Ride.

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