Last week one of the world's truly great innovators passed away. Malcolm McLaren, the inventor of the punk movement. McLaren's life work was that of a Renaisance man, an ideas man who changed popular culture both as an entreprenuer and as an artiste. His journey of invention was often misunderstood by artists, academics and the industry in which he operated because he continually moved outside the norms to create new forms and new products that questioned the accepted practice of his peers. As a manager, he was not a traditional band manager. He interfered artistically. As an artist, he was held in deep suspicion by musicians and practicing artists alike because he was seen as an entrepreneur first, part of the profit making machine artists inherently mistrust. Even worse, he couldn't play a musical instrument using digital sampling technology to create his work way before it was the accepted norm.
If you contrast his first outing publicly as the manager of the Sex Pistols and the recognised founder of the punk movement; his mentoring of Adam Ant and Boy George; his subsequent breaking of world music into popular culture through Duck Rock recorded and filmed in Soweto before the breakdown of Apartheid in South Africa; his contemporising and popularising of opera through Puccini's Madame Butterfly and his final album Paris containing a beautiful and romantic duet with Catherine Deneuve - Paris, Paris, you can see the emergence of the archetypal cultural entrepreneur for the 21st century and the new digital business models. Single-handedly McLaren stood up against the major record labels, recording and releasing his own material in garages using the new wave of digital technology previously only accessible to the music acts who could afford it such as the Beatles. It was McLaren who first saw the potential of digital media paving the way for all those "punk" young creative garage based internet and software coders, hackers and would be entrepreneurs who broke rules because they could and found ways to make money out of doing that - think Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter. McLaren was like all great entrepreneurs, a raconteur who understood strategic thinking - what made McLaren stand out was his ability to recognize his strength as an ideator, to see "ideas" as an artform in itself and their manifestation being their successful implementation artistically and commercially. Like all great innovators, he failed regularly yet always restlessly sought the next new idea, forever honing his craft - whatever you may label that!!.
A man of our times and one of the modern world's great creative and cultural leaders!
Here is a link to a feature on Malcolm McLaren made in 1984