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Born: January 31, 1956
Biography: As the true brains behind the Sex Pistols, John Lydon -- formerly Johnny Rotten -- is easily one of the most influential and revered figures in rock & roll. The godfather of British punk, a leader in the arty post-punk movement with Public Image Ltd., and a participant in the alternative rock scene his earlier work helped inspire, Lydon has forged a stubbornly idiosyncratic body of work that reflects both his love of challenging his audience and his snarling contempt for shallowness and conformity.
John Joseph Lydon was born in Finsbury Park, London, England, on January 31, 1956, into a poor, working-class family of Irish descent. At age seven, Lydon contracted spinal meningitis and spent half a year slipping in and out of comas; when he finally recovered, most of his memory had been erased, and he was left with minor damage that eventually popped up in elements of his stage persona (i.e., a piercing stare necessary for him to focus on objects). He proved quick-witted, creative, and highly individualistic, qualities that were not necessarily welcome in the British school system. A move to a state-run school as a teenager allowed greater freedom of expression and dress, which young Lydon used to cultivate the "anti-fashion" look that punk would later popularize. Lydon frequented a clothes shop called Sex, which was run by would-be rock & roll gurus and provocateurs Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood; McLaren eventually had Lydon audition for a band he was putting together called the Sex Pistols. Lydon's audition consisted of tunelessly bellowing Alice Cooper's "Eighteen," but he did so with panache, and was hired as lead singer. [Read more via AllMusic here]