Steve Harley, singer with Cockney Rebel, dies at 73

Steve Harley, the frontman of 70s band Cockney Rebel and best known for ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’, has died aged 73.

The news was confirmed by his family in a statement, who said: “We are devastated to announce that our wonderful husband and father has passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side.”

Harley, who had been receiving cancer treatment, had cancelled a run of shows in late 2023, writing on his website at the time that it was a “heartbreaking” decision, but necessary in order to fight a “nasty” cancer.

His family continued that they knew Harley would be “desperately missed by people all over the world”.

“Whoever you know him as, his heart exuded only core elements. Passion, kindness, generosity. And much more, in abundance.”

Born Stephen Nice, the musician grew up in London, and while working as a local journalist in the early 1970s, he started busking and playing in the city’s folk scene.

He formed the glam rock group Cockney Rebel in 1972 with Jean-Paul Crocker, Stuart Elliott, Paul Jeffreys and Milton Reame-James, and they were quickly signed by EMI Records.

The band had early success with singles such as ‘Judy Teen’ and ‘Mr. Soft’, but they began to fall apart due to other members wanting to write more of the group’s material.

Harley reformed the band with a new line-up, including Elliott, Jim Cregan, Duncan Mackay and George Ford, and renamed them Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. Their first single together, ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’, was a UK Number One single in 1975 and charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Harley’s most enduring song, it has been named by PRS as one of the most played songs in British broadcasting history.

Harley began a solo career in the late 1970s, releasing six albums under his own name, most recently 2020’s ‘Uncovered’. Cockney Rebel also reformed multiple times, playing together as recently as 2021.

Tributes to Harley have been coming in on social media since the news broke – see a range of messages below.

Harley is survived by his wife Dorothy, with whom he had two children and four grandchildren.

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