Steve Harley, the frontman of the British rock group Cockney Rebel, has died aged 73. The English singer and songwriter, best known for his 1975 song Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), had been receiving treatment for cancer. He died at his Suffolk home on Sunday morning. In a statement, his family 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. “Whoever you know him as, his heart exuded only core elements. Passion, kindness, generosity. And much more, in abundance.” Harley’s family said they knew the singer would be “desperately missed by people all over the world”. Last October Harley announced the cancellation of Steve Harley Acoustic Band shows that were scheduled to take place in January 2024 due to his cancer treatment. At Christmas he posted a message on his website saying: “2023 has not exactly been an annus horribilis for me, as the first half was often magical, with some great nights on stage with Barry, Oli and David. And the full rock band in Holland and Belgium, and Denmark … out there, on the road, that’s where I come alive. “The second half, well … cancelling live dates is heartbreaking. I’m aware of the stress and financial strain it can place on you. “But 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.” Harley’s team said in February that the singer could not commit to any concerts in 2024, but that he hoped he would be better next year. The musician, who was from London, lived on the Essex-Suffolk border with his wife, Dorothy, with whom he had two children – Kerr and Greta. Harley was born in south-east London in 1951 and spent almost four years in hospital as a child after contracting polio. At the age of 17, he joined the Daily Express as a trainee accountant before working as a journalist for several regional newspapers including the East London Advertiser. Cockney Rebel rose to prominence in the early 1970s with their glam rock music. The original band was made up of Harley, Jean-Paul Crocker, drummer Stuart Elliott, bassist Paul Jeffreys and guitarist Nick Jones. Their debut studio album, The Human Menagerie, was released in 1973. The group’s other hits included a cover of Here Comes The Sun, which was released in 1976. Harley branched out as a solo artist before the band regrouped in 1990 after the success of Harley’s 1989 tour. The band’s biggest hit, Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), has sold about 1.5m copies and has been covered more than 120 times, including by Robbie Williams and Duran Duran. Harley also presented the BBC Radio 2 show Sounds of the 70s from 1999 to 2008. The show is now hosted by Johnnie Walker. Helen Thomas, the head of Radio 2, said everyone at the station was “saddened” to hear of the news. “We send our condolences to his family and our presenters are paying tribute to him on air,” she said. Figures across the music industry also paid tribute, including the singer-songwriter Mike Batt, who worked with Harley on songs including Ballerina (Prima Donna) released in 1983 and the 1988 charity single Whatever You Believe. “What a talent. What a character. What a lovely guy,” Batt posted on X. Midge Ure, the Ultravox frontman who produced Harley’s 1982 track I Can’t Even Touch You, called him a “true ‘working musician’”. “He toured until he could tour no more, playing his songs for fans old and new,” Ure said. “Our songs live on longer than we ever can.” Nicholas Pegg, the author of The Complete David Bowie, said: “Steve Harley had a remarkable career that bestrode the musical landscape: from Bowie to Bush, from Wakeman to Brightman, from Batt to Bolan. And that’s just the collaborations. His own work was prolific and superb, and he wrote one of the greatest pop songs ever. Raising a glass.” The TV presenter Lorraine Kelly said she “loved his music” and recalled watching the band as a teenager. “Great gig,” she added. Harley’s fans also expressed their condolences. “Brilliant musician and great story teller,” one said. Another added: “Cockney Rebel were fantastic and a lot of punk/new wave artists that came later seem to bear their influence.”

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