Punk pioneer John Lydon, who once brought anarchy to the charts and was too hot to handle for several record labels, was honoured by the music industry tonight as record executives toasted his success.
The former Sex Pistols frontman, still known to many by his early stage name Johnny Rotten, was given the Icon Award - following figures such as Bryan Ferry and Ray Davies - at an annual ceremony which celebrates performers and songwriters.
His prize at the BMI London Awards is given to songwriters who have had "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers".
Other artists celebrated at the event included Norwegian hitmakers A-ha, singer Ellie Goulding and Adele for their airplay success on US radio. The event, attended by music industry bosses, is hosted by Broadcast Music Inc which represents hundreds of international artists, collecting and distributing royalty fees for their radio play in the US.
Over the years John, 57, has gone from being considered an enfant terrible of the music business to becoming a familiar face to millions of viewers - albeit an affably cantankerous one - after taking part in I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, hosting wildlife shows and starring in a TV ad for butter.
He rose to notoriety in 1976 when he and the Pistols swore during a live TV interview and they caused further upset by provocatively released God Save The Queen at the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, scoring a number two hit.
They released other singles such as Pretty Vacant and Anarchy In the UK but John quit the band after a disastrous US tour, forming the more experimental Public Image Ltd with whom he is still touring after reforming the band in the past few years.
Del Bryant, the president of BMI, said of John's award, presented at London's Dorchester Hotel: "John Lydon is a true icon whose influence on music, fashion and art has been felt around the world."
A-ha were honoured for achieving four million radio performances of their hit Take On Me, while Adele was rewarded for extensive airplay of songs Rumour Has It and Skyfall. Goulding was recognised for his track Lights, Snow Patrol for Called Out In The Dark and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran for The A-Team.
Kelly Clarkson hit Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) landed the song of the year prize as the most-played song in the BMI catalogue on US radio and TV in the past year.
The Who's Pete Townshend was also honoured as his track Baba O'Riley is the theme to the popular US police series CSI.
John, who arrived to the black tie event wearing a purple suit, said his award mattered because he was being recognised for his songwriting.
"These fellow songwriters have bothered to stand up and take notice of the things I do, and for me that's very important.
"I'm the kind of fella that picks and chooses what awards I accept so this is obviously something that carries a great deal of meaning to me.
"They fight to get our money and for that, you know, I'm full of heart."
In an expletive-packed 13-minute speech, Lydon explained that he had always tried to tell the truth in his music throughout his lengthy career, even if he upset people.
"I might come across as a volatile accurate person, but in real life I'm a volatile accurate person," he said.
Lydon said he had been moved to tears after watching video footage shown at the ceremony of his late mother, for whom he wrote the PiL song Death Disco.
"There's a tear in my eye because I'm a human being and the things I write about are class and creed and culture, the people, the life that we should be living - but have to put up with nonsense."
He also praised his wife Nora, with whom he has been in a relationship for more than 35 years, and asked her: "How do you put up with me?"
She replied: "I'm equally stupid."
Lydon concluded by explaining: "I'm a fella that loves deeply and hardly. You have to earn my respect and earn my wings. But once you've got them, they're there forever.
"I can forgive all manner of ills and bad moods because I know deep down inside of you, the human spirit is the most wonderful thing."