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Steve Harley performing in 2015. Alamy Stock Photo
cockney rebel

Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley dies age 73

The English musician rose to prominence in the 1970s with the rock band, best known for their hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me).

COCKNEY REBEL FRONTMAN Steve Harley has died “peacefully at home” at the age of 73, his family has announced.

The English musician rose to prominence in the 1970s with the rock band, best known for their hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), and also performed on the title track for Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Phantom Of The Opera.

Harley had been touring last year but was forced to cancel dates in November and December as he underwent treatment for a “nasty cancer”.

A statement from his daughter Greta said:

“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.

“Stephen. Steve. Dad. Grandar. Steve Harley. Whoever you know him as, his heart exuded only core elements. Passion, kindness, generosity. And much more, in abundance.

We know he will be desperately missed by people all over the world, and we ask that you respectfully allow us privacy to grieve.

In a post on his official website on Christmas Eve, Harley wished his fans a “happy, healthy New Year” as he revealed his 2023 had been a tale of two halves.

He said the first half had been “often magical” as he got to play on stage in Europe with his band members, saying “out there, on the road, that’s where I come alive”.

But he said the later half had been “heartbreaking” as they had to cancel live show dates, with a previous statement revealing he was undergoing a medical procedure and would then need a period of recuperation.

‘Fighting nasty cancer’

He added: “I’m fighting a nasty cancer. My oncologist is pleased with the treatment’s effects so far. It’s tiresome, and tiring. But the fight is on.

“And thankfully the cursed intruder is not affecting the voice. I sing and play most evenings.”

Singer-songwriter Mike Batt, who worked with Harley on a number of songs including 1983’s Ballerina (Prima Donna) and 1988 charity single Whatever You Believe, hailed the musician as a “dear pal” and “lovely guy”.

“I was just writing about him yesterday in my autobiography”, Batt added in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“What a talent. What a character. What a lovely guy. My condolences to Dorothy and all. RIP, mate. Will write more soon.”


Harley was born in Deptford, south London, in 1951 and due to a childhood illness, he spent almost four years in hospital.

He first worked as a trainee accountant and then a journalist for a number of regional publications.

The singer turned his hand to music by performing in London folk clubs in the early 1970s and later formed Cockney Rebel.

They released their debut studio album, The Human Menagerie, in 1973 and followed it up with 1994’s The Psychomodo which went to number eight in the UK charts.

The band regrouped and changed its name to Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and it was under this moniker they released a string of albums including 1975’s The Best Years Of Our Lives, which peaked at number four.

It also contained Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), which went to number one in the UK charts and was later covered by dozens of artists and featured in films including The Full Monty.

The group’s other popular tracks include Mr Raffles (Man, It Was Mean), Here Comes The Sun and Love’s A Prima Donna.

For the original 1986 run of Phantom Of The Opera, Harley duetted with Sarah Brightman on the title track, which went to number seven in the charts.

He was originally cast in the titular role for the musical but was later replaced by Michael Crawford.

A note on the single’s sleeve from the Phantom himself read:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, on this recording I have required that Sarah Brightman and Steve Harley perform the theme from the forthcoming musical, which I have instructed Andrew Lloyd Webber to write around my legend ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Your Obedient Servant, The Phantom.”

Harley also wrote for other artists including his friend Sir Rod Stewart and performed with his band at Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival over the years.

Press Association