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Johnny Lydon’s wife of 44 years has died of Alzheimer’s. Her story is amazing.

Johnny Lydon (née Rotten) has a reputation of being a defiant, contrary, take-no-bs hardass punk. But if you were to engage him about his wife, he was a big softie.

Way back in 1979 when he was 23, he married 37-year-old Nora Forster. She was a former model and mother of fellow early punk, Ari Up of The Slits. So yes, Johnny became Ari’s stepfather.

Nora’s story was fascinating. In addition to modelling, she also worked as a music promoter in Germany working with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Yes. She was married to Frank Forster, a singer of some renown in Germany.

When she moved to London in the 60s, she eventually became a patron of several punk bands, including The Pistols, The Slits, and The Clash. She could afford to do this because she was the heir to a German publishing empire that included the magazine Der Spiegel. When her father died, she inherited US$120 million.

But back in the day, her life was anything but posh. She and her daughter lived as those early punks did, always opening her home as a crash pad for people like a young Joe Strummer. Because of her generosity, she was known as “Punk Mummy Warrior.”

One day in 1975 while at a party thrown at Sex, the shop owned by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, she ran into the future Johnny Rotten. He may have been just 19 and she 33, but there was some kind of connection.

This is what Johnny said to The Guardian last year: ‘It’s love, you know. I’ve always loved that woman. And she knows it. When we met we didn’t expect to get on. We’d both been told the other was a bad’un. But blimey. Sparks flew. It was instant attraction,’

They were married in Dusseldorf in 1979 and became inseparable.

Nora supported Johnny all through his music career. But the most important thing she ever did was cause them to be late for a flight from the UK to New York. She got all flustered with packing for the trip and the couple arrived too late and missed the plane. That was Pan Am flight 103, which was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988.

Johnny and Nora moved to California in the late 80s. In 2010, Ari died of breast cancer. Nora and Johnny became guardians of her twin boys.

Johnny was a devoted husband, even after Nora was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018, dropping everything to care for her. They watched TV and movies together and coped by reminiscing about the good old days. Johnny said they often danced around the house. Despite her decline, Johnny says that Nora continued to recognize him. Earlier this year, he submitted a song for Eurovision 2023 that was inspired by and dedicated to her.

Nora’s death was announced yesterday (April 6). She was 80.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37974 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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