Malcolm McLaren, Punk-Rock Visionary, Dead at 64
Malcolm McLaren, the legendary one-time manager of punk-rock band Sex Pistols, has died aged 64. McLaren was believed to have been diagnosed with cancer a while ago, and passed away on Thursday morning after his condition suddenly deteriorated.
In addition to managing the Pistols, McLaren was also a partner of famed fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, with whom he set up a rubber and fetish gear clothing line and fashion store on London’s King’s Road. Their store, “Let It Rock”, was later renamed “Sex”, and the couple became synonymous with punk fashion and culture.
They also had a son together, Joseph Corre, the co-founder of lingerie shop Agent Provocateur.
McLaren went onto to establish himself as an artist in his own right, and also managed a number of other artist including the New York Dolls and Bow Wow Wow. In later life he even dabbled in politics, at one point even considering standing for Mayor of London.
He was probably most notoriously known for his management approach of the Sex Pistols. From the bands’ debut single release of “Anarchy in UK”, to them swearing on live television, being fired by numerous record companies because of their antics, and having their single “God Save the Queen” band by the BBC, the Pistols, and by association, McLaren, were never far from controversy.
Music journalist Jon Savage (who wrote a definitive account of the Sex Pistols and the punk movement, England’s Dreaming said: “Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk. He’s one of the rare individuals who had a huge impact on the cultural and social life of this nation.
“He could be very charming, he could be very cruel, but he mattered and he put something together that was extraordinary. What he did with fashion and music was extraordinary. He was a revolutionary.”
In 1983 McLaren released a solo project album Duck Rock. The album mixed styles from South Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the USA, including hip-hop. The album proved to be highly influential in bringing hip-hop to a wider audience in the UK. Two of the singles from the album (“Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch”) became major chart hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
The album featured a number of South African musical influences, and included collaborations with South African artists such as Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. Remembering that this was the during height of apartheid suppression in South Africa, for a white man to be working so closely with black South African artists was unheard of.
On a personal note, McLarens’ work in SA has a place of much pride to me as an uncle of mine, the acclaimed South African film and video director Ian Gabriel, directed videos for McLaren for a number of the songs on the album, including “Soweto”. They also collaborated on the video for “Zulu’s On A Time Bomb”.
(Unfortunately, both of these clips are in fairly poor condition visually, but the audio seems okay.)
A sad loss for the world of music, fashion and entertainment. Malcolm McLaren was a visionary, a revolutionary, and a true lover of life. May he rest in peace.