- 10 Dec 21
Glaswegian Steve Bronski (born Steven Forrest) formed Bronski Beat with Jimmy Somerville and Larry Steinbachek in the 80s.
Steve Bronski, who co-founded 1980s synthpop group Bronski Beat, has died at the age of 61.
Former bandmate Jimmy Somerville confirmed the news on Twitter yesterday, sharing a tribute to the keyboardist. Bronski formed the band with Somerville and Larry Steinbachek in 1983, later going on to release hits including 'Smalltown Boy' and 'Why?'
The trio were known for campaigning on LGBT rights issues and their debut album, The Age Of Consent, featured the consent age for men in various countries around the world on its inner sleeve as a protest.
Somerville shared a heartfelt post on Twitter, writing: "Sad to hear Steve Bronski has died. He was a talented and a very melodic man.
"Working with him on songs and the one song that changed our lives and touched so many other lives, was a fun and exciting time. Thanks for the melody Steve."
Sad to hear Steve Bronski has died. He was a talented and a very melodic man. Working with him on songs and the one song that changed our lives and touched so many other lives, was a fun and exciting time. Thanks for the melody Steve. Jimmy x pic.twitter.com/VfxbtZu1Nx
— Jimmy Somerville (@JimmySomerville) December 9, 2021
Born Steven Forrest in Glasgow, Bronski worked as a labourer and stage hand while playing bass in a country and western group before moving to Brixton, London.
The trio were inspired to form a band in response to what they considered to be the era's inoffensive and conservative take on pop music.
In 1984, Bronski Beat signed a recording contract with London Records after performing only nine live concerts, rejecting a deal with influential journalist and label owner Paul Morley and claiming later that he had intended to market the band based mainly on them being openly gay.
Their debut single, 'Smalltown Boy', about a gay teenager fleeing his hometown and family for the city, went to No.3 in the UK singles chart and remains a favourite with the clubbing community.
The hard-hitting video showed Somerville being chased by a homophobic gang, taken home by the police and thrown out by his parents, before getting on the train to start a new life with Bronski and Steinbachek.
At the end of 1984, Bronski Beat released debut album The Age of Consent, which peaked at No. 4 in the UK charts, and shined a spotlight on various themes relevant to the LGBT community.
"When you saw it written down, the discrimination was astonishing," Somerville later said. "We printed the number of the Gay Switchboards across Britain on the record sleeve and they were swamped as a result."
The album had a sense of humour, found in the cover of Gershwin’s 'It Ain’t Necessarily So,' where they stressed the song’s sly line of questioning about what’s written in the Bible. The fact that Somerville only performed with Bronski Beat on this album cemented its legacy as a snapshot of proto-queer-pop power.
"At the time we were just three gay guys who started a band - we didn't feel like part of any particular movement," Bronski told The Guardian in 2018. "Of course, it would transpire many years later that there were more gay artists than the public were led to believe."
The outfit also collaborated with Soft Cell star Marc Almond in 1985 to release a hit cover of Donna Summer's I Feel Love.
Somerville later left to form pop group The Communards with Reverend Richard Coles. He was replaced by John Foster and later Jonathan Hellyer.
Bronski revived the band in 2016 with one-time 1990s member Ian Donaldson to record a reworked version of their debut album, this time titled Age Of Reason.
Steinbachek died from cancer at the age of 56 in late 2016.
RIP Steve Bronski. Smalltown Boy is, quite properly, a gay anthem, saying so much about and to that community at that time. But it also speaks to any young person leaving home to find something they can't have there, maybe their independence and true adulthood.
— DCT (@deeceeteeee) December 9, 2021
Sad news that Steve Bronski has died. That LP was so important politically, so fantastic musically. Smalltown Boy remains a masterpiece and the video says so much abt class as well as sexuality. Dad slipping him a fiver has stuck with me for nearly 40 yrs https://t.co/ybQBA9NCTX
— Tony Walsh (@LongfellaPoet) December 9, 2021
— Sue Charles (@Sue_Charles) December 9, 2021
- Live Review
- 02 Jul 22