How Steve Harley went from reporter to rock star as Cockney Rebel frontman dies aged 73

webnexttech | How Steve Harley went from reporter to rock star as Cockney Rebel frontman dies aged 73

Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley began his career as a cub reporter before becoming a rock star. The 70s icon, who passed away at 73, was born in Deptford, south London on February 27 1951, and found fame with the band’s hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me). But his working life began in a newspaper office as an accountant. As a child, Harley spent almost four years in hospital between the ages of three and 16, undergoing major surgery in 1963 and 1966. At Christmas 1964, the Rolling Stones visited the Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in Carshalton Beeches where he was being treated, but he later recalled that most of the children were “interested in joking about the huge poster of The Beatles pinned to a wall”. Harley received his first guitar as a Christmas present from his parents when he was 10 and also took classical violin lessons, playing in his school orchestra. However, he later admitted he was a “hopeless” reader of music and “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 dream of becoming a reporter and trained with the Essex County Newspapers in Colchester before working at various local newspapers. He then moved to the East London Advertiser where he stayed until 1972 until he gave up the job, leaving his desk to be taken by TV presenter Richard Madeley. Paying tribute to Harley, following his death, Paul Henderson, former editor of the Sunday Mirror, 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 deep thinking, compassionate man who wanted the best for his family and friends.” “That’s way he wrote and sung such wonderful songs. My dearest memories are of Steve walking into the tiny East London Advertiser newsroom on Mile End Road, where we were cub reporters in the early 70s, with his guitar slung over his shoulder. Then, he’d play a few tunes and we would have a good laugh.” “He gave up journalism and became a busker on the London Underground while trying to make his way in the world of rock music. Steve, you were always going to surprise us all and made your dreams come true despite your childhood polio which I never once heard you complain about. Your live music and beautiful smile will be deeply missed.” Harley started his showbiz career by singing for free as a member of the audience, or “floor-spotting”, in London folk clubs in 1971/72. He later joined the folk band Odin and met John Crocker, who would become Cockney Rebel’s first violinist. He then went on to create the band Cockney Rebel as a way to perform his more rock-oriented work. EMI signed the band for a three-album deal in 1972. Their single, Sebastian, from The Human Menagerie album, became a hit across Europe, reaching number one in the Netherlands and Belgium. However, it was Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) that brought Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel long-lasting fame. It reached number one in the UK and several other European countries. The Performing Rights Society confirmed that the hit is one of the most played records in British broadcasting. It has been covered over 100 times and featured in films like The Full Monty, Velvet Goldmine and Saving Grace. In the 1980s, Harley put his rock career on hold as his children grew up. However, he still acted on stage in the musical-drama Marlowe in both London and off-Broadway. He continued writing lyrics for several other artists, including friend Rod Stewart, who called him “one of the finest lyricists the UK has ever produced”. However, he didn’t get the chance to play the phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera even though he originally recorded the title song with co-star Sarah Brightman in 1986. Michael Crawford got the part instead, even though Harley was under contract to take on the role, and the matter ended up being settled in court. In 2007, Harley, a big fan of racehorses, made £100,000 for the Mines Advisory Group by completing a charity bike ride across Death Valley in California. The money raised helped train people in Cambodia to clear mines. But, in 2014, Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear stepped in to urged the viewers of the show to download Make Me Smile so they could help raise more money for Harley who had been fined £1,000 after he was caught going 70mph on the M25 in Kent where there was only a 40mph temp speed limit. Because of this, the song went back into the iTunes top 30. Jeremy went on to say on the show: “He’s eke-ing a meagre living out of, let’s be honest, one hit single.” And that, “Everybody loves that song you can’t trust someone who doesn’t like that song.” Harley was doing tours up until 2023 but had to stop doing shows in November and December when he was getting treatment for what he described as a “nasty cancer”. His wife, Dorothy, and their kids, Kerr and Greta, said in a statement on Sunday that he had “passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side” and that people all over the world would miss him very much. Follow Mirror Celebs on TikTok, Snapchat , Instagram , Twitter , Facebook , YouTube and Threads . 32334817

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