April 26, 2010 12:00 PM

Malcolm McLaren was once asked to sum up his life as the father of punk. “It’s better to be a flamboyant failure,” he said, “than a benign success.” McLaren, who died of cancer at 64 on April 8, can be counted a success story-a truly outrageous one. In the ’70s, the Londoner launched a rock revolution as co-creator and manager of the Sex Pistols. Their 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, was loud, unruly and scandalized the British with “God Save the Queen,” an anthem mocking Elizabeth. McLaren loved the controversy: An anarchic but media-savvy promoter who once owned a London boutique with his ex-partner, designer Vivienne Westwood, he didn’t care about taste, music or melody. All that mattered in rock, he said, was “trying to be immortal.”

Diagnosed last October with mesothelioma, he tried alternative treatment in Switzerland, where he died surrounded by loved ones. “He was a real beacon of a man,” says Joseph Corré, his son with Westwood. “He encouraged people to jump into the brink of things.” And punk was pure brinksmanship: The original Sex Pistols didn’t last beyond one studio album, but they made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. McLaren’s subsequent musical projects were all experimental but easier on the ears. “Above all else he was an entertainer,” says the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon, “and I will miss him, and so should you.”

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