Malcolm McLaren, whose storied and controversial career bounced from managing the Sex Pistols, 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 are 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.”
McLaren and Westwood opened their clothing shop Let It Rock on London’s Kings Road in the early 70s and after a short stint managing the New York Dolls, the duo renamed the shop Sex in the mid-70s. It became one of the beacons of punk fashion of the time. McLaren began managing The Strand, who would become the Sex Pistols and recruited Johnny 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 novelty singles like “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch,” from 1983’s Duck Rock and more (shockingly) refined albums, like the lushly jazz-infused 1994 release Paris which featured Catherine Deneuve and FranÃ§oise 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.”
Update: John Lydon has released the following 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.’