Thursday, April 8, 2010

R.I.P. Malcolm McLaren

We have lost more creativity. The great impresario, stylist, artist, and fearless provocateur Malcolm McLaren died today in Switzerland after a lengthy battle with mesothelioma. He was 64.

He and Vivienne Westwood single-handedly changed the course of world pop culture forever. Read his fascinating biography here.
Despite the fact that he invented the snarling, ferocious musical genre known as "punk rock," and despite the fact that he surrounded himself with the likes of Johnny "Rotten" and Sid "Vicious," for me, Malcolm seemed like a delighted little boy, full of a kind of naiveté, almost giddily happy, and ready to make a fool out of himself at any moment. His musical career is peppered with lyrics and performances from him that could be considered "corny," but which I find totally endearing and mesmerizing for the fact that he appeared fearless and without any self-consciousness; he simply flung himself into whatever it was he dreamt up and I admire that. McLaren was a "conceptual collage artist" who threw cultures, fashion, lifestyles, art, and music together and found joy and artful expression in both the similarities and the differences of all the elements in the mix. A good example is his debut release, Duck Rock which treated all "folk music" as one, whether it was African music from Soweto, square dancing music from the Appalachians, hip-hop music form Brooklyn, or voudoun drumming from Haiti.
Take a moment to honor McLaren with two of his videos. In this first video for "Madame Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)," his glorious version of the classic aria "Un bel di..." from the opera Madama Butterfly by Puccini, melancholy models languish in a steamy, beautiful hammam. This track is from McLaren's 1984 conceptual release Fans, a collection of interpretations of classic operas.

And this video, "Paris Paris," is from his release Paris, a wistful and deeply passionate love letter to the City of Light. It features the elegantly beautiful Catherine Deneuve and has a distinct North African flavor, to reflect the North African immigrant influence on Parisian culture.

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