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Steve Harley - 1951-2024

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Steve Harley - 1951-2024

Steve Harley, frontman of Cockney Rebel, died on Sunday 17 March aged 73 after a battle with cancer. Best known for the 1975 hit ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’, Steve and his band had been touring until late last year when he was forced to cancel dates as his cancer worsened. He died peacefully at his Suffolk home surrounded by his family. Steve Harley was born in Deptford, South London in 1951, the second of five children. His father was a milkman and his mother sang jazz. As a child, he spent four years in hospital after contracting polio. His first career was as a journalist working for local newspapers – including ‘The East London Advertiser.’ Paul Henderson, now a national journalist, was a colleague who worked with Harley on that local paper in the 1970s. He recalls that Harley was always “a deep-thinking, compassionate man – which is why he wrote and sang such wonderful songs”. Harley started performing in London folk clubs alongside his work as a reporter and by the early 1970s he had formed Cockney Rebel. He was devastated in 1974 when other members of Cockney Rebel decided to quit the band and his anger then inspired his biggest hit ‘Make Me Smile which he recorded with his new band – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. The song quickly topped the UK charts and has subsequently been covered by many other artists. Other hits followed including ‘Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean); and his version of George Harrison's /Here Comes The Sun’. In 1986 Harley duetted with Sarah Brightman on the hit single ‘Phantom Of The Opera; and he was initially cast in the title role for Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical – but he was replaced by Michael Crawford who suddenly became available. Midge Ure, who produced Harley's 1982 hit ‘I Can't Even Touch You/ has hailed him as a “true working musician” adding, “He toured until he could tour no more, playing his songs for fans old and new....” and Rod Stewart has commented, “Loved you and admired you Steve – and always will.” Singer-songwriter Mike Batt who worked with Harley on 1983's ‘Ballerina (Prima Donna)’ has described Harley as “a lovely guy and a true professional”. Steve Harley was certainly one of the true originals from London's rock scene – and he will be very much missed. He leaves his wife, Dorothy who he married in 1981 and children Kerr and Greta. Photo by Andrew Twambley www.twambley.com

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Steve Harley - 1951-2024

Visitor Comments:-
10118 Posted By: Andrew Twambley, knutsford UL on 09 May 2024
Nice article Nick. The news seems to have a constant flow of great musicians passing, but this one affected me more than any other. Psychomodo was the first LP I bought and Cockney Rebel was the second gig I attended back in 74. I interviewed him for Pennyblack in summer 2022. He was very articulate and a nice guy who loved life. His legend will live on !!!

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Nick Dent-Robinson pays tribute to Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley, who died in March.


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