Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel and ‘Make Me Smile’ Singer, Dead at 73

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Steve Harley, singer for the British glam rock act Cockney Rebel and their 1975 hit “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me),” has died at the age of 73.

Harley’s family confirmed his death in Suffolk, England Sunday in a statement (via The Guardian), “We are devastated to announce that our wonderful husband and father has passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side. The birdsong from his woodland that he loved so much was singing for him. His home has been filled with the sounds and laughter of his four grandchildren.”

While cause of death wasn’t revealed, Harley died just a month after he announced that he would step away from touring in 2024 “due to on-going treatment for cancer.”

The London-born Harley joined Cockney Rebel in 1972, with the band’s debut LP The Human Menagerie arriving the following year. After 1973’s The Psychomodo — co-produced by Harley and Alan Parsons — a major lineup reshuffling resulted in the band being rebranded Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel in 1975, the same year the group released what would become their most enduring song, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).”

Although not a hit in the U.S. — it only peaked at Number 96 on the Hot 100 stateside, the only time the band touched the American charts — “Make Me Smile” was a Number One smash in the U.K., and over the ensuing decades was covered upwards of 100 times by artists like Duran Duran (as the B-side on their “The Reflex” single), Erasure, the Wedding Present and Suzy Quatro. The track also featured in films like Velvet Goldmine and The Full Monty.

Harley and Cockney Rebel remained hitmakers across the Atlantic before dissolving (temporarily) in 1977. Harley then embarked on a solo career while also reviving Cockney Rebel on occasion. Harley’s final album was 2020’s Uncovered, a collection of covers.

“We are so very sad to hear of the passing of Steve Harley,” Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark tweeted Sunday. “His music was determinedly and insistently unconventional. Deeply  characterful lyrics and vocal inflections.”


Ultravox singer Midge Ure wrote, “Steve Harley was a true ‘working musician’ He toured until he could tour no more, playing his songs for fans old and new… Our songs live on longer than we ever can.”

Harley’s family added in their statement, “Whoever you know him as, his heart exuded only core elements. Passion, kindness, generosity. And much more, in abundance.”

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