West News Wire: Sonny Barger, the iconic figure of the Hells Angels motorcycle club and a staple of 1960s counterculture who attended the infamous Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway, has passed away. He was 83.

Late on Wednesday, Barger’s death was announced on his Facebook page.

“You’ll know that I’m gone if you’re reading this message. I’ve asked that this note be published as soon as I pass away,” read a posting. “I’ve had a long, fulfilling life full of adventures. And I’ve had the honor of belonging to a fantastic club.

“I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the post stated.

Barger’s former attorney, Fritz Clapp, told The Associated Press that Barger had liver cancer and died Wednesday night at home in Livermore, California. Barger composed the post placed on the Facebook page managed by Barger’s wife, Zorana, he said.

Ralph “Sonny” Barger was a founding member of the Oakland, California, chapter of the Hells Angels in 1957 and was present at its most infamous moment the 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway during which bikers hired as security staff fatally stabbed a concertgoer who pulled a gun on one of their members.

The Hells Angels were typically depicted by the media as the dark fringe of the 1960s counterculture, embracing freedom, drugs and rock music, but also crime and violence.

But Barger, the unofficial spokesman for the Hells Angels, downplayed their outlaw reputation.

“They say we’re organized crime, but if you took every Hells Angel on the face of the Earth and got rid of them you wouldn’t drop the crime rate in the world one-tenth of one percent,” he said in a 2000 interview for Heads magazine. “We’re a little drop in the bucket. There’s more cops committing crimes than Hells Angels.”

Barger’s own arrest record included charges ranging from drunken driving to attempted murder. He served 13 years in various prisons, according to news reports.

He started the Hells Angels with friends and soon learned there were other Hells Angels clubs in California. Barger helped unify the clubs.

He served as the main character in Hunter Thompson’s 1966 expose “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.”

“He’s smart and he’s crafty and he has a kind of wild animal cunning. He was clearly the most competent person around,” Thompson wrote.

Of the Altamont killing, Barger argued that the Hells Angels acted in self-defense. The club member charged in the incident was acquitted. The stabbing was captured by a camera crew filming the documentary “Gimme Shelter.”

Barger underwent a laryngectomy in the early 1980s for throat cancer, which he attributed to a long, three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. Thereafter, he breathed through a plastic valve in his neck, and covered the vent to speak.

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