John Joseph Lydon (born 31 January 1956), also known by his former stage name Johnny Rotten, is an English singer, songwriter, and musician. He is best known as the lead singer of the late 1970's punk band The Sex Pistols, which lasted from 1975 until 1978, and again for various revivals during the 1990s and 2000s. He is also the lead singer of post-punk band Public Image Ltd (PiL), which he founded and fronted from 1978 until 1993, and again since 2009.
Lydon's rebellious image and fashion style led to him being asked to become the singer of the Sex Pistols by their manager, Malcolm McLaren. With the Sex Pistols, he penned singles including "Anarchy in the U.K.", "God Save the Queen", and "Holidays in the Sun", the content of which precipitated the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium" in Britain. The band caused a nationwide uproar in much of the media, and Lydon was seen as a figurehead of the burgeoning punk movement. Despite the negative reaction that they provoked, they are now regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.
After the Sex Pistols disbanded in 1978, Lydon went on to found his own band, Public Image Ltd, which was far more experimental in nature and described in a 2005 NME review as "arguably the first post-rock group". Although never as controversial or commercially successful as the Sex Pistols, the band produced eight albums and a string of singles, including "Public Image", "Death Disco", and "Rise", before they went on hiatus in 1993, reforming in 2009. In subsequent years, Lydon has hosted television shows in the UK, US, and Belgium, as well as writing two autobiographies: Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs (1993), Anger is an Energy (2014), and producing some solo musical work, such as the album Psycho's Path (1997). In 2005, he released a compilation album, The Best of British £1 Notes.
There has been a recent revival of a 1980s movement to have Lydon knighted for his achievements with the Sex Pistols, even though he has declined efforts to award him an MBE for his services to music. In 2002, he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote. Q Magazine remarked that "somehow he's assumed the status of national treasure".
Lydon explained the origin of his stage name, Johnny Rotten, in a Daily Telegraph feature interview in 2007: he was given the name in the mid-1970s, when his lack of oral hygiene led to his teeth turning green. One version says the name came from the Sex Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones, who saw Lydon's teeth and exclaimed, "You're rotten, you are!"