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Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten to be named Icon of music

Johnny Rotten performs with the Sex Pistols during the Exit music festival in Novi Sad, northerm Serbia, July 14, 2008. REUTERS/Marko Djuric
Johnny Rotten performs with the Sex Pistols during the Exit music festival in Novi Sad, northerm Serbia, July 14, 2008. REUTERS/Marko Djuric

(Reuters) - Johnny Rotten may not like it but he is starting to become Johnny Icon.

The 57-year-old former frontman of the anarchic 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols is to receive an award for his contribution to music from the music rights organization BMI, although he angrily rejected previous honors.

Singer-songwriter John Lydon, who went by the name Johnny Rotten as he belted out songs like "Pretty Vacant" and "Anarchy in the UK", will be presented with BMI's Icon Award at a gala in London on October 15.

Lydon, with his trademark orange hair, and the Pistols are credited with launching punk rock in Britain and inspiring scores of other musicians with their expletive-ridden, anti-establishment rage.

"John Lydon is a true icon whose influence on music, fashion and art has been felt around the world," Del Bryant, BMI President and CEO, said in a statement.

Lydon was not immediately available to comment on the award but news of the honor was posted on his website and tweeted by his current band, Public Image Ltd, suggesting he had accepted.

This would contrast with 1996, when Lydon called the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a "piss stain" when it was announced the Sex Pistols would be inducted into the Ohio museum, which adds several new acts to its ranks its year.

But Lydon does appear to have mellowed over the years.

In 2004 he appeared in the reality TV show "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" in which participants face jungle conditions, and in 2008 in a much-maligned advert for British butter, later insisting he was proud to boost the image of a UK brand.

However he came under fire in Australia earlier this year, accused of sexism after telling a female presenter to "shut up when a man is talking". He later apologized, saying his only enemies are governments and institutions, not women.

The BMI said its Icon award recognized musicians who have had "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers". Previous recipients include Van Morrison, Bryan Ferry and Queen.

The Sex Pistols formed in 1975 and sparked controversies galore, with their appearances often resulting in chaos. The BBC refused to air the 1977 song "God Save The Queen", released at the time of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee.

The band's sole studio album, "Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols", from 1977, led to an obscenity trial.

Lydon left the Sex Pistols in 1978, announcing their demise, to form his own band, Public Image Ltd. It disbanded in the 1990s but reformed in 2009 and released its first album in 20 years last year, prompting a U.S. tour. Lydon performed last month at Britain's biggest music festival, Glastonbury.

(Reporting By Amritha John; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Mark Heinrich)

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