Tributes paid to former NME editor and Kerrang! founder Alan Lewis

Lewis was instrumental in NME's resurgence of the late 1980s

Alan Lewis, who served as editor of NME and founded Kerrang! magazine among other roles in a storied publishing career, has died aged 76, prompting tributes from across the music press.

Danny Kelly, who succeeded Lewis as NME editor in the late 1980s, shared the news on Twitter yesterday (June 25), remembering him as “A quiet chap, but wickedly funny, no man better knew his way round a magazine flatplan or a public bar. My heart aches. Thank you for everything Alan.”

The cause of Lewis’ death is unconfirmed, however his son Simon wrote in a Father’s Day piece in The Telegraph, shortly before his father’s death, that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

News of Lewis’ death led to a number of tributes from writers, editors and more across the industry.

Ted Kessler, editor of Q until its closure last year, said: “All your favourite music papers and magazines would have lived longer and in ruder health if he’d have been involved with them for more years.”

John Mulvey, editor of MOJO, former editor of Uncut and former NME deputy editor, said he was “forever grateful” to Lewis for offering him work experience at NME when he was starting out.

Another former NME writer and current Electronic Sound editor Push remembered him as “an inspiring mentor, a brilliant boss, a giant of the UK music press, and a gem of a man.”

Kevin Cummins, legendary NME photographer behind iconic pictures of Joy Division, Morrissey and more, said “Alan was a great editor and an all round nice guy. He hauled the NME out of trouble & showed a lot of trust and faith in a whole new range of writers / photographers. He was hugely influential in my career, something I’m eternally grateful to him for.”

Lewis’ son Luke, himself a journalist who was the editor of NME.com from 2011 to 2013 among other roles, posted a lengthy list of standout moments from his father’s career, as compiled by his brother.

I can’t say it any better, so sharing this beautiful tribute my brother Simon wrote to my Dad, Alan Lewis. It was…

Posted by Luke Lewis on Thursday, June 24, 2021

Among other things, he remembered his father designing the first ever cover of Kerrang! on their kitchen table using “glue and a guillotine”, overhearing Lionel Richie writing ‘Three Times A Lady’ on a hotel bar piano, and interviewing a pre-fame Morrissey when he applied (unsuccessfully) for a job as a writer at Sounds.

Singling out his time at NME he said: “Some of the most iconic NME front covers ever – think Shaun Ryder climbing on a giant rooftop E, Stone Roses spattered with paint – were his.”

You can see further tributes to Lewis below.

Lewis began his career in local newspapers, before joining Melody Maker in 1969. He went on to found and edit Black Music in 1973, a pioneering monthly title that was one of the first mainstream British publications to write seriously about reggae, hip hop, and avant-garde jazz.

In the late 1970s he edited Sounds, where he and writer Geoff Barton were the first to name the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ scene.

In 1981 he founded longstanding rock and metal publication Kerrang!. In a tribute to Lewis, the magazine’s current creative director Phil Alexander said: “There are […]literally millions of readers who owe him a huge debt of gratitude for developing an editorial approach based on enthusiasm and instinct.”

As well as serving as editor of Sounds, Lewis became editor of NME in 1987, overseeing a period of resurgent circulation figures after years of instability at the publication before departing at the end of the decade.

He was also instrumental in the launch of Loaded in 1994, and Uncut in 1997, and in 2011 retired after stepping down from his final editorial role at Record Collector.

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