Cockney Rebel musician Steve Harley dies aged 73 at his Suffolk home

Cockney Rebel singer Steve Harley has died in his home in Suffolk.
Credit: PA
Cockney Rebel singer Steve Harley has died in his home in Suffolk. Credit: PA

Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley has died aged 73.

Harley died "peacefully at home, with his family by his side”, a statement from his daughter Greta said.

Cockney Rebel was best known for their hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), which went to number one in the UK charts in 1975.

The Performing Rights Society has confirmed that the hit is one of the most played records in British broadcasting and it has been covered more than 100 times and was featured in the movies The Full Monty, Velvet Goldmine and Saving Grace.

The singer was touring until January 2024 but had to cancel some recent dates due to ongoing cancer treatment.

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.”

Harley was given his first guitar as a Christmas present from his parents when he was 10 and also took lessons for the classical violin which he played in his school orchestra however he later admitted he was a "hopeless" reader of music so "must have been bluffing a lot of the time".

His first full-time job was as a trainee accountant at the Daily Express in 1968 having left school without any A-levels.

He then followed his ambition to be a reporter and trained with the Essex County Newspapers in Colchester, working at the Braintree and Witham Times.

Paul Henderson, former editor of the Sunday Mirror, worked withe Steve in local newspapers in the 70s, he said: "I am stunned by the death of my lovely friend Steve Harley.

"He was a great musician and singer and in many ways more importantly a deepthinking, compassionate man who wanted the best for his family and friends.

"That's way he wrote and sung such wonderful songs.

"He gave up journalism and became a busker on the London Underground whiletrying to make his way in the world of rock music."

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."

Harley put his rock career on hold during the 1980s as his two children grew uphowever he still ventured on stage for the title role of the musical-drama Marlowe which ran in London and off-Broadway.

Penny Lancaster and Sir Rod Stewart Credit: Ian West/PA

He also continued writing lyrics for several other artists, including friend Sir Rod Stewart who called him "one of the finest lyricists the UK has ever produced".

Sir Rod Stewart said he is “absolutely devastated”.

"Words fail me," he continued, “The Cockney Rebel has left us. Loved you and admired you Steve and always will. Sir Rod Stewart.In 2007, Harley, who was a keen racehorse owner, raised £100,000 for landmine clearance charity, the Mines Advisory Group by completing a charity cycle ride across Death Valley in California with the money going to help train mine clearers in Cambodia.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...