Malcolm McLaren

Punk Rock Provocateur And Former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McLaren Dies

Malcolm McLaren, whose storied and controversial career bounced from managing the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, to creating the influential clothing shop Sex with former girlfriend Vivienne Westwood to his own solo singing career, died on Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 64.

While The Independent and the BBC is reporting that McLaren died in New York, the New York Times says that according to McLaren's companion Young Kim, he passed away in a Swiss hospital from complications from mesothelioma.

"He had been suffering from cancer for some time," McLaren's spokesman told The Independent, "but recently had been full of health, which then rapidly deteriorated. He died in New York this morning. We are expecting his body to be brought back to London and buried in Highgate Cemetery."

Despite their sparring and estrangement, Johnny Rotten eulogized his former manager on Thursday, saying in in official statement, "For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that. Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.”

McLaren and Westwood opened their clothing shop Let It Rock on London's Kings Road in the early 70s and after McLaren's short stint managing the New York Dolls and experiencing the American punk scene, he and Westwood renamed the shop Sex in 1975. The duo became the most important, influential figures in punk fashion. McLaren began managing the band The Strand which evolved into the Sex Pistols after McLaren recruited Rotten as their singer. Not surprisingly, the relationship between Rotten and McLaren eventually soured and McLaren lost a royalties dispute with the flame-haired frontman.

McLaren subsequently created and managed (by way of discovering 13-year old Annabella Lwin and stealing Adam Ant's band) Bow Wow Wow and even launched his own solo singing career, releasing esoteric singles that dabbled adventurously in early rap ("Buffalo Gals"), African beats ("Double Dutch") and even opera ("Madame Butterfly"). Though he's likely best known for his 1983 album Duck Rock, McLaren's strongest, most interesting album was likely the lushly jazz-infused 1994 release Paris which featured Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Hardy.

Brash, mischievous and a pop culture troublemaker, McLaren had non-music career highs, as a film producer and author, and lows, like his ill-fated stints on the UK reality TV shows "Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack" and 'I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here." In an interview with the Guardian last summer, McLaren recalled the best advice he'd ever received, from a goatee-bearded art lecturer as, "'It is better to be a flamboyant failure than any kind of benign success.' For me, those words define punk rock."

As for his best advice to offer a young musician? "Don't ever sign to a record company."

 

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