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Malcolm McLaren Dies; Houston denies drug rumors; Gaga and Hova help Oprah

mclaren.jpegMalcolm McLaren, punk rock renaissance man, has died at the age of 64. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)

By Ally Schweitzer

English artist, musician, provocateur and Sex Pistols mastermind Malcolm McLaren died yesterday after a struggle with cancer. He was 64.

McLaren is best remembered as the brain behind the Sex Pistols and the concomitant architect of punk rock. Through his London shop -- which he co-owned with designer Vivienne Westwood -- McLaren assembled the lineup of the confrontational punk rock band, pulling John Lydon off the street to audition as singer. Lydon became Johnny Rotten and the band went on to spark controversy and conflict wherever they went, including the courtroom. In the 1980s, Rotten sued McLaren for lost revenues and famously called his former manager "the most evil person on Earth." To that, McLaren said, "I don't know what evil is. What does he mean? Did I torture him? What did I do to this kid? I sprinkled him with stardust. But you have to appreciate: no one wants to know they have been manufactured."

Manufacturing is what McLaren did best -- or was it stealing? For most of his life the renaissance man churned out a panoply of topsy-turvy counter-cultural music, art and fashion heavily derived from international underground trends. His hit singles in the 80s -- "Buffalo Gals," "Double Dutch" and "Madame Butterly"-- were artfully assembled sample platters of global cool. McLaren borrowed from hip-hop, drag queen fashion and West African music, chopped it up and, like he did with the Sex Pistols singer, sprinkled it with stardust. “Stealing things," he said, "is a glorious occupation, particularly in the art world.”

And in the topsy turvy way McLaren would have preferred, his influence pervades the hip-hop and pop worlds he borrowed from so long ago. Amerie, Eminem, and Mariah Carey are just a few of the pop stars that have sampled McLaren's music, and his song "About Her," a moody reinterpretation of the Zombies' "She's Not There," appeared on the soundtrack to "Kill Bill 2." For someone who openly abhorred cultural nostalgia, McLaren's own work truly reveled in and re-lived the past-- and gave us some crucial glimpses into our future.

In other news:

- Whitney Houston is dismissing accusations that she's been using drugs again, calling the rumors "ridiculous." After the pop star postponed a number of European shows due to health problems, a few media outlets suggested that her problems were caused by drug use. Houston told People, "My health is terrific, but this is a time when I get a lot of allergies."

- Oprah has tapped Jay-Z and Lady Gaga to help her launch yet another television network (was Oxygen not enough?) called OWN. That stands for Oprah Winfrey Network, in case it's not immediately obvious. Hova, Gaga, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be featured on a pair of shows, called "Master Class" and "Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind," which will launch with the network's debut in 2010.

By Ally Schweitzer  |  April 9, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning click  | Tags: Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Malcolm McLaren, Whitney Houston  
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