Don't let the barriers you have built to define who you are blind you from appreciating the unfamiliar.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

RIP Malcolm McLaren

On April 8, 2010, Malcolm McLaren died of mesothelioma. He has had a long career, primarily pulling strings behind the scenes. He managed some of punk rocks most important acts, The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols, and some less important acts, Adam and the Ants and the splinter group Bow Wow Wow.

McLaren also had a music career, but only two albums Duck Rock and Waltz Darling really had an impact. McClaren's music is more along the lines of collage and collaboration than a solo act. He recruited artist and DJ's from the New York hip hop scene and combined their talents into a record.

While McClaren's music isn't particularly genius, it introduced several styles to mainstream music and culture. Here are two good examples:

Buffalo Gals is the first single off of Duck Rock and surely the most important song he released. Buffalo Gals introduce record scratching, live vinyl sampling, and the early stages of turntablism to the pop world. The video is a mash of early 80s New York street culture.

On Waltz Darling, McLaren's only number one hit ever was Deep in Vogue. Unseating Madonna's hit Express Yourself, the song was number one for only a week. Deep in Vogue introduced the world to the dance style of voguing. Oddly enough, Madonna would come back the next year and turn voguing into an international phenomenon with her music video for Vogue.

McLaren was always ahead of his time, bringing new forms of music to the mass public.  Even in 2003, he was pushing to bring awareness to Chiptune or 8-bit electronic music.  In an article he wrote for the tech/culture magazine Wired, he called the new sound "a new kind of folk music for the digital age."

I will leave you with my favorite McLaren music video, a reinterpretation of the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly. Also influential, hints of this music video can be seen throughout Lady Gaga music videos.


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