This week, John Lydon of Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd. fame revealed in a heartbreaking interview with Britain’s The Mirror that he has become the primary caregiver for his wife of more than 40 years, Nora Forster, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I am her full-time carer and I won’t let anyone mess up with her head,” Lydon said, stressing that he has no intentions to ever put her in a care facility. “For me, the real person is still there. That person I love is still there every minute of every day, and that is my life.” The punk icon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten, added that Alzheimer’s experts have been amazed with how Forster still remembers him, saying "a bit of love goes a long way.”
While the brief and doomed relationship between the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and punk scenester Nancy Spungen became the subject of the acclaimed biopic Sid and Nancy in 1986, it’s the romance between John and Nora that is truly fascinating. Lydon met Forster, a German publishing heiress 15 years his senior, when he was in his early twenties; Forster was the mother of Ari Up, the teenage frontwoman of another pioneering British punk band, the Slits. The couple married in 1979 and have been devoted to each other ever since. In 2000, Lydon and Forster became the legal guardians of Ari's twin sons, and they became the guardians of Ari's third child in 2010 after Ari died of breast cancer.
In 2015 during a sit-down interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Lydon spoke about the many doubters who had assumed that his relationship Forster would never last this long. “Well, good luck to people that are flippant about their relationships and their responsibility towards their fellow human beings, but people like me and Nora, we spend the time and take the effort to understand each other,” he said. “And that then it becomes a life’s work in progress. And for my way of living, that’s how it want it to be. I don’t take commitments lightly. I don’t treat fellow human beings as tools of my trade. So there you go — I’m a loyalist at heart.”
Lydon further explained to Yahoo Entertainment that when the Sex Pistols first exploded onto the scene, shortly before he met Forster, he had no interest in the casual groupie sex that became available with his newfound fame. “I started in the wonderful world of rock ‘n’ roll, and quite frankly, sex was thrown at you left, right, and center. No, it wasn’t for me… I don’t like that flippancy. I grew up having childhood illnesses, and somehow it left me feeling that there was something wrong with me,” Lydon said, referring to a battle with spinal meningitis at age 7 that caused him to spend a year in the hospital and to suffer from hallucinations, nausea, headaches, intermittent comatose states, and severe memory loss for four years.
“I had to come to grips with that very quickly once I was thrown onto a stage and into the public limelight — I was aware of people that were attracted to me, but not because they knew anything at all about me. It was the fame and fortune. And those kind of people, I don’t want around me,” Lydon told Yahoo. “That’s not me being moralistic. … It’s a sense of values. I have to feel that person respects me for who and what I really am. And I hope it’s vice versa. I’m like this with friends. I’m like this with my own family members. And once I make the commitment, it’s forever.”
Lydon has also spoken to The Guardian about his devotion to his wife, saying, “I have never been unfaithful, though I had plenty of opportunity in the Sex Pistols. We both played the field before we met and found it very wanting.” He also discussed their immediate, intense connection despite their differences in age and backgrounds: “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. And that’s never gone. I never expected to feel like that. I never thought I was in any way attractive. Or anyone’s idea of a good date.”
Lydon added, “I can’t think of a better woman on God’s earth than Nora. If we ceased to function as a couple tomorrow there would be no one else. Not ever. I mean it. … The idea of losing Nora is unbearable. If one of us goes before the other it will be murder for the survivor. She is older than me but women live longer, so we should die at exactly the same time. That would be perfect.”
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