Malcolm McLaren RIP

Malcolm McLaren


It is my mother’s birthday today, 8th April; but ironically it is also the 4th anniversary of the death of Malcolm McLaren.
My brother Joe & I were with him when he died at the hospital in Bellinzona, Switzerland at the foot of the Alps.
The two of us had flown to Milan & driven to the hospital 3 days before as we had been told that his condition was untenable & we both wanted to be with him.
His girlfriend Young Kim was already there & the 3 of us spent every day with him from then.
The first morning that we were there Malcolm was unconscious. The doctors were keeping him on morphine & oxygen as his breathing was so bad. However in the afternoon the morphine wore off & Malcolm woke up.
His throat was very dry so he signalled that he wanted a drink. Joe went & bought him 2 small bottles of orange juice which he drank quickly one after the other. His first word was ‘Wow’. I suppose that it is obvious if you are in hospital for mesothelioma & then you wake up & see relatives you haven’t seen much for years around your bed that you know they have come because you are really dying. Malcolm’s ‘Wow’ was his reaction to the extraordinary situation he now found himself in. He smiled as he said it. He was always one for experiences.
At this point the doctors came in to check up on him & so we all had to leave the room for a bit. When we returned they had given him some more morphine & he fell asleep again soon after.
This was the pattern really for the next 3 days. We did not have much of a time to speak to him as every time he woke up, the doctors knocked him out again & I became a little bit pissed off at this, but what can you do?
Joe & I decided to extend our visit as we were supposed to return to London on the 7th. We really thought that Malcolm could go at any minute.
& so it was the 8th. Malcolm again was not awake for long. This time he noticed the ‘Free Leonard Peltier’ t-shirt that I was wearing & he said ‘Yes, free Leonard Peltier’ (Peltier is a member of the ‘American Indian Movement’, AIM who was jailed on very spurious evidence for the murder of 2 FBI agents in Pine Ridge in 1977).
After this Malcolm did not wake up again.
I was sitting in the room with him & Young Kim who was by his bed. Joe was upstairs on the balcony of the cafeteria writing madly in a notebook that he had bought, all the things that that were on his mind & that he was feeling & that probably he would never be able to say to his father.
At one point I noticed that Malcolm’s breath was coming very slowly. I thought that I would breathe at the same pace as him to see if I could, & I couldn’t, so I rushed upstairs to get Joe, told him that I thought this was it & we both rushed downstairs again. Joe just had time to whisper in Malcolm’s ear & then I heard his last breath.
You don’t hear another breath after the last one. I kept listening but one didn’t come. I went outside the room & looked at his body monitor on the wall. It was like you see in a film. All the lines were flat. It was 4pm.
We stayed in the room with him for another half an hour & the sun went lower. I was thinking that I was still alive & that time was still passing for me but not for him anymore. He had gone, even though he was still next to me.
I phoned my mother & told her the news. Her voice was emotionally charged as she said ‘& it’s my birthday. Malcolm….’
Malcolm was buried on the 22nd April in Highgate cemetery. A death mask was made of his face by Nick Reynolds, the son of the Great Train Robber, Bruce & this is the centrepiece of the gravestone Joe had made for him. Rest in Peace Malcolm.

…………& I also found out today that Peaches Geldof has died.Terrible, she was lovely.  RIP Peaches……


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12 thoughts on “Malcolm McLaren RIP

  1. Thanks for another post Ben, what a brilliant man Malcolm was!!!
    Rest in Peace x

    Happy birthday vivienne x

  2. Ben,

    What a moving tribute to Malcolm! It must have been a very emotional moment for you to be with Malcolm when he passed away. Thank you for sharing the experience with us. Happy Birthday Vivienne!

    Best Regards,

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us..Rest in Peace Malcolm..
    It is amazing the impact your mother and he had in each others life.
    Happy Birthday Vivienne ! ( belated)

  4. WOW… very very moving… reminds me so much of when my mother passing, very similar story… Rest in Peace Malcom! Happy belated Birthday Vivienne! Thanks to Vivienne an Malcom for all the inspiration I got tru your works when I was a young man… Ben Thanks for sharing!

  5. A great piece of writing which evokes the emotion you felt on losing Malcolm. Incredible that he died on the same day as Vivienne’s birthday. As others have said here, thank you for sharing your thoughts. .

  6. Every of my “nice” days I start with Malcolm’s music. Vivien’s arts is also impressive. Thank you ..both.p

  7. A moving piece. My brother died under similar circumstances the following January. McLaren has always had his page earmarked in my book of brilliant things. He was, and still is, a breath of fresh air. All stuff you know better than me but stuff we don’t mind repeat hearing of our loved ones.

    I did a very very short blog on him last month. It was really an excuse to do a portrait of him as I recall his icon.

    Bless those of us who bob in his wake and those who stand on his shoulders.

    • Mike….I think your piece about Malcolm & Art is Wonderful & Brilliant. Not a ‘small piece’ at All.
      Ideas come from other ideas of course……Malcolm was a ‘Mixer’
      & that is what ‘Magic’ is …