1 of 5 | Hell's Angels founder Sonny Barger has died at age 83 of cancer. Photo courtesy of Sonny Barger/Facebook
June 30 (UPI) -- Hell's Angels founder and best-selling author Sonny Barger has died of cancer at 83, according to a farewell message posted to his verified Facebook page.
"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," Barger's farewell message said.
According to Barger's autobiography, he joined the small Hell's Angels biker club as it fizzled in San Francisco. He and others took the name and moved the club to Oakland, Calif.
Barger became national president of the Hell's Angels in the 1950s. In his book, Barger wrote that he was influenced by the The Wild One film, starring Marlon Brando.
"As a street tough, I looked the part. I wore my Levi's jeans with 1-inch-wide cuffs at the bottom, smoked Camels...had the attitude, and rode a motorcycle," Barger wrote.
"I've lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I've had the privilege to be part of an amazing club," Barger's Facebook post said. "Although I've had a public persona for decades, I've mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family and close friends."
In his autobiography, Hell's Angel -- The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, he described the Altamont, Calif., Rolling Stones concert where the Hell's Angels killed a man who had a gun close to the stage.
The Rolling Stones had hired the Angels to work security at the concert, documented in the film Gimme Shelter.
Barger wrote in his book that the man who was killed, Meredith Hunter, had fired a shot before he was stabbed to death by Hell's Angels.
A member of the bikers club was charged in the killing but was acquitted on a claim of self-defense.
Barger also claimed he put a pistol into Keith Richards' ribs and demanded he stop delaying and play the concert immediately.
Barger denied that the Hell's Angels were a criminal gang. But he was often targeted by law enforcement and spent several years in prison.
He was convicted of conspiracy to kill members of a rival motorcycle club in 1988, serving five years in federal prison.