Steve Priest – bassist, vocalist and founding member of the British glam rock band Sweet – has died at the age of 72.
Priest and Sweet rose to fame in the 70s and were counted among the seminal glam rock acts of the era. Over the course of their career, the group would score 13 Top 20 hits in the UK, including songs like ‘The Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Fox On The Run’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, and their No.1 hit, ‘Block Buster!’ in 1973.
Priest joined the group in the late 60s when they were still establishing their sound, their line-up and their name. Before long, The Sweetshop turned into Sweet, and by 1971, the band scored their first international hit with single ‘Funny Fanny’. By the mid-70s, the quartet (Priest, vocalist Brian Connolly, guitarist Andy Scott and drummer Mick Tucker) had evolved from a bubblegum pop act into a harder rock outfit, and firmly cemented their place in rock history with their third studio album, Desolation Boulevard. While two distinct editions of the 1974 LP would be released in the UK and the US, it nevertheless attracted hoards of fans with its guitar-heavy, hook-filled tracks.
Towards the end of the decade, following the departure of Brian Connolly, Priest took over vocal duties for several years before the founding members disbanded. Priest re-located to the US, and, for the final decade of his life, toured with his own version of the group. Throughout their time together, from 1971-1982, Sweet released a total of nine studio albums.
Known for his light-hearted and spirited nature within the group, Priest was beloved by his fans and the band. In a statement on The Sweet’s Facebook page, Andy Scott called Priest “The best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. From that moment in the summer of 1970 when we set off on our musical odyssey the world opened up and the rollercoaster ride started!”
Other musicians around the world have also paid tribute to Priest, including Megadeth’s David Ellefson, who said that he was “very sad to hear of the passing of Steve Priest”. The bassist wrote on social media that Sweet “gave me one of my earliest memories of great hard rock on the radio as a kid and Desolation Boulevard still holds up as one of rock’s greatest albums from that period”. He added that meeting Priest “Was one of the highlights of my professional career. His writing, vocals and bass work are without parallel.”
Born in Hayes, Middlesex, the British artist had made Los Angeles his home for since the mid-80s. While his cause of death has not been revealed, Priest is survived by his wife of 39 years Maureen O’Connor, a longtime publicist for Rogers & Cowan; their daughters Danielle and Maggie; daughter Lisa; and three grandchildren.