Sonny Barger, Legendary Hells Angels Founder, Dead At 83

Sonny Barger
Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Regardless of what you think about him, this man left a legacy.

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the infamous motorcycle club called the Hells Angels, has passed away at the age of 83 due to liver cancer.

A statement was posted to his Facebook page:

“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. 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.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones.

Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny”

He was part of the original group which founded the MC in 1957 and stayed on top of its leadership through 1998, when he moved from the group’s main territory in California to Arizona, although he stayed a rank-and-file member and remained a figurehead for the organization through his final days.

Although known to the parts of United States previously, he was thrust into the public eye from Hunter S. Thompson’s phenomenal book Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, published in 1966 after Thompson spent over a year with the Angels researching them and at times participating in their runs and indulgent parties.

The club was known as a hard partying, crime ridden, drug using bunch who liked being on the outskirts of society and enjoyed the hate and disgust “normal” people showed to them. Their trademark Harleys we’re kept in absolute top condition, while their own personal hygiene and appearance withered away to nothing more than crusty jeans, unshaven faces and cutoff leather jackets.

The group terrorized communities in the western part of the US for decades, with stories of town takeovers rampant and weary, fearful police crews left to do little but try to control the damage.

Sonny himself was a larger-than-life character, epitomizing everything the Angels stood for, for better or worse. He also briefly appeared on FX’s, Sons of Anarchy.

One of his most well-known quote is on what it takes for someone to become a man.

“To become a real man, you need to join the army first and then do some time in jail.”

While I’m not too sure of the statement’s validity, it gives you a pretty solid look into the man who was Sonny Barger.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Zorana Katzakian, both his second and third wives, and a sister.

Due to years of chain-smoking cigarettes, Sonny had his vocal cords removed in 1982, but learned to speak through a hole in his neck, hence why there are not many videos of him being interviewed, but the few out there are worth the watch.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock