Steve Bronski, Keyboardist & Bronski Beat Co-founder, Dies At 61

Shooting to stardom in the mid-1980s, Bronski’s band chalked up several UK top 10 hits, including the influential gay anthem ‘Smalltown Boy’.

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Steve Bronski - Photo: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Steve Bronski, co-founder and keyboard player in pioneering 1980s synth-pop group Bronski Beat, has died at the age of 61.

Bronski, from Glasgow, was born Steve Forrest and formed the group in 1983 with singer Jimmy Somerville and fellow-musician Larry Steinbachek. They enjoyed UK top 10 hits with the gay anthem “Smalltown Boy”, “Why?” and a cover of Donna Summer’s disco anthem, “I Feel Love.”

Jimi Somerville said: “Sad to hear Steve has died. He was a talented and a very melodic man.”

The singer added: “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.”

Bronski’s friend Josephine Samuel told BBC News he was a “gentle, kind and talented man.”

The group began when Bronski and Steinbachek met Somerville through a documentary called Framed Youth – Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, which was made for an LGBTQ arts festival.

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“Smalltown Boy”, their debut single, is now regarded as a synth-pop classic, and reached number three in the charts on first release. It was particularly ground-breaking for many fans who related to its story of a young, gay man leaving his home town for the freedom of the big city.

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 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.”

Their debut album Age of Consent followed in 1984. The title referred to the difference in the legal ages for gay and straight sex, and the sleeve listed the ages of consent for countries around the world.

“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.”

Somerville left to form The Communards but Bronski Beat continued, reaching the top 10 again with “Hit That Perfect Beat” in November 1985.

The group carried on in the 1980s and 90s, and in 2017 released their first new album for 22 years, with Bronski as the only remaining original member. Steinbachek passed away in 2017.

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