On this day in 1979, the notorious bassist for the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious, was found dead in his New York City apartment.


Born John Simon Ritchie, Vicious was 21-years-old when he died of a heroin overdose in Greenwich Village. His death likely came as a surprise to few given his lifestyle choices, but his death was devastating all the same, as Vicious stood for punk rock.

The bassist was the last member to join the Sex Pistols, taking over for Glen Matlock in 1977 when he was fired from the band. Vicious was a famously poor bass player who managed to fake his way through early gigs. His band mates would even reportedly unplug his amplifier on stage. What he did have going for him was his attitude. Vicious represented the punk rock movement in the UK, walking around London with a swastika on his chest and a chain and padlock around his neck. “Sid, on image alone, is what all punk rests on,” said critic Alan Jones.

Nearly a year into his time with the band, Vicious was introduced to American Nancy Spungen, who quickly became his girlfriend. They were reportedly very much in love, but it was their shared heroin addiction that led to both their deaths. The drugs led to violence, and Vicious was blamed for Spungen’s death by stabbing on Oct. 12, 1978.

Spungen’s murder was never solved, as Vicious died before any trial took place. Filmmaker Alan Parker created a documentary called Who Killed Nancy? in 2009, which investigated the facts surrounding Spungen’s murder that the police overlooked, including unaccounted for fingerprints and a missing wad of cash.

Vicious was freed on bail after his arrest for her murder, but quickly landed back in jail in December of that year after he assaulted Patti Smith‘s brother with a broken bottle in a bar. He spent a few weeks in Rikers Island before he again made bail on Feb. 1, 1979. That night, he partied and introduced heroin into his system for the last time. The medical examiner later estimated that the drug had been 80% pure.

Vicious died in the early morning of Feb. 2, 1979.

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