Nora Forster, the wife of Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd. singer John Lydon and mother of the late Slits singer Ari Up, has died at the age of 80 following a lengthy and public battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the sad news that Nora Forster – John Lydon’s wife of nearly 5 decades – has passed away. Nora had been living with Alzheimer’s for several years. In which time John had become her full time carer,” Lydon’s Twitter announced Thursday. “Please respect John’s grief and allow him space.”
The German-born heiress of a publishing dynasty, Forster was an early champion of the U.K.’s punk movement and encouraged her daughter Ariane Forster — later known as Ari Up — to pursue music at a young age; Up would eventually form the pioneering punk band the Slits, and within a year of their formation were opening for the Clash. Up died in 2010 at the age of 48 following a bout with breast cancer, with Forster and Lydon becoming guardians of Up’s three children.
Lydon and Forster married in 1979, four years after she first met the then-Johnny Rotten at Vivienne Westwood’s famed punk shop Sex. The couple remained together until Forster’s death.
Forster was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018, with Lydon becoming her full-time caretaker when he was on tour with PiL. Lydon recently spoke about his wife’s Alzheimer’s battle when Public Image Ltd. were a surprise contender to represent Ireland in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, with the band performing “Hawaii,” a song Lydon wrote about his wife, during the country’s competition.
“I thought it would be really good because it meant my lovely wife, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, might get a great sense of fun out of it if she managed to guess who it was,” Lydon said at the time. “We’ve lived together for 47 years, Nora and I, so she must have some clues as to who I am and what I can get up to.”
Lydon also spoke about how difficult it was to leave Forster at their Southern California home to participate in the competition — Irish voters ultimately chose another act to represent them — but noted that he did achieve his goal of bringing more awareness to Alzheimer’s disease.
“All the things I thought were the ultimate agony seem preposterous now,” Lydon said in February. “It’s shaped me into what I am. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I don’t see how I can live without her. I wouldn’t want to. There’s no point.”