Sonny Barger
Source: Getty Images

Sonny Barger, the Godfather of the Hells Angels, Has Died at Age 83

Leila Kozma - Author
By

Jun. 30 2022, Published 9:19 a.m. ET

The Godfather of the Hells Angels passed away on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at age 83.

Sonny Barger, the biker who founded the Oakland, Calif. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club after seeing The Wild One, the 1953 drama-noir starring Marlon Brando and Robert Keith, has tragically died.

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A cultural icon, Sonny portrayed outlaw motorcyclists in Hells Angels on Wheels, Hells Angels '69, and Sons of Anarchy. What happened? What's Sonny's cause of death?

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What was Sonny Barger's cause of death?

A prolific author, Sonny wrote about his life philosophy in his memoir, Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories is a collection of personal anecdotes detailing his wildest experiences while on the road. Freedom: Credos From the Road takes a similar approach.

Sonny's tragic passing was announced via a Facebook post on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. As the note states, Sonny died following a battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his loved ones.

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"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," the statement reads. "And I've had the privilege to be part of an amazing club."

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"Although I've had a public persona for decades, I've mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends," the statement continues. "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 Barger was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1980s.

Sonny received a throat cancer diagnosis in his 40s.

He had an operation in 1982. He shared a few details about it in a Facebook post, citing a section of Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. "After my throat cancer operation, I laid in my hospital bed, unable to talk," he wrote at the time.

At one point, Sonny had to have his vocal cords removed.

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Sonny Barger earned renown for his free-spirited mentality and non-conformist lifestyle.

A famed biker, Sonny enthusiastically embraced life on the road. But the mentality he and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club stood for didn't sit well with everybody. Sonny had his fair share of legal troubles over the years, spending some time in prison. In 1973, he was sentenced to 10 years to life for narcotics and weapon possession. He got caught with 37 grams of heroin on his person, alongside an unauthorized firearm. He left prison after four years.

Sonny was convicted on conspiracy-related charges in October 1988. He was released from FCI Phoenix in Arizona in November 1992.

He married Zorana "Zee" Barger in June 2005. They celebrated their 17 anniversary on June 25, 2022. Sonny and Zorana appeared together in Dead in 5 Heartbeats. Sonny played a bar patron while Zorana portrayed a biker girl.

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