Steve Harley, frontman of Cockney Rebel, dies at 73

The influential performer's song, "Make Me Smile," has reverberated across pop culture.

Steve Harley, frontman of the influential Cockney Rebel, died on March 17 at age 73, his family announced on Facebook.

"We are devastated to announce that Steve, our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather, has passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side," his family wrote on social media. No cause of death was provided, but Harley rescheduled shows in both January and February, taking time away from performing to undergo cancer treatment.

Harley and Cockney Rebel began performing in the early '70s and signed their first deal in 1973. By 1975, they had recorded "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)," a chart-topping song in the U.K. that was subsequently covered by many bands — most notably Duran Duran, Erasure, and The Wedding Present. It was also featured in many movies and shows like The Full Monty, Velvet Goldmine, and My Name is Earl.

<p> Lorne Thomson/Redfern</p> Steve Harley

Lorne Thomson/Redfern

Steve Harley

That wasn't Cockney Rebel's only song that hit the charts, though. "Judy Teen" reached No. 5 in 1974, and they also made waves with their 1976 cover of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." Harley later said that even George Harrison was a fan of Cockney Rebel's funky version of the song. "I never met him, but we had one close mutual friend, and he told me he loved it because he 'got it' — he understood what we were doing with it," Harley told the International Songwriters Association.

Harley loved the stage and was frequently on tour. He took a break from live performances in the early '80s following the birth of his first child. "I didn’t play for quite a few years. I needed to get grounded and be a family man for a while," he said in a 2022 interview. "I learnt how to do it again. I didn’t know if I could. I’d lost self-confidence. That was in ’88, and, as you’re implying, I haven’t stopped [touring] since."

Harley often cited his mother as one of his earliest musical influences but extended that list to Bob Dylan and the poets D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot.

Following the news of his death, tributes poured in from across the music world, including from Duran Duran, Joy Division and New Order's Peter Hook, and many other artists who performed with Harley.

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