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Bronski Beat Founder Steve Bronski Dead at 61

Jimmy Somerville, Larry Steinbachek, and Steve Bronski

Bronski Beat's music was notable for its gay political themes, and Steve Bronski was a longtime activist. 

From left: Jimmy Somerville, Larry Steinbachek, and Steve Bronski, circa 1984; photo by TV Times via Getty Images

Steve Bronski, an original member of the influential gay music group Bronski Beat and longtime LGBTQ+ rights activist, has died at age 61. No cause of death has been reported.

Bronski, born Steve Forrest in Glasgow, Scotland, played keyboards in Bronski Beat, which he formed with fellow keyboardist Larry Steinbachek and vocalist Jimmy Somerville in 1983. "All three members of the band were out as gay and sought to counter what they perceived as the inoffensive nature of the era's gay performers by embracing explicitly political themes in their music," The Guardian reports.

Their debut single, 1984's "Smalltown Boy," told the story of a young gay man leaving his homophobic hometown and family for London. It reached number 3 on the British singles charts and was the group's only song to make Billboard's Hot 100 chart in the U.S. It was "recognizable for its pining, oft-sampled keyboard line," Pitchfork Media notes, while The Guardian calls it "one of the era's defining hits and a canonical queer pop song." It has been featured in TV series and films, such as Euphoria, Cucumber, The Souvenir, and BPM.

"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," the BBC notes.

"Smalltown Boy" was one of the tracks on Bronski Beat's first album, TheAge of Consent, which also included "Why?" and a cover of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." The album was notable for listing the age of consent for gay sex in various European countries on its inner sleeve. It peaked at number 4 on the U.K. album charts.

Somerville left the group in 1985 and then formed the Communards. Bronski Beat carried on with other front men into the 1990s. Bronski went on to produce and record with other artists, and in 2017 he brought a new Bronski Beat lineup together for a revamp of The Age of Consent, titled The Age of Reason, featuring new recordings of the original album's songs and three new tracks.

"We should be living in an age of reason," he told Pennyblack Music at the time. "The trans community should not live in fear, and gay kids should not be bullied. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go." The new lineup included vocalist Stephen Granville and keyboardist Ian Donaldson, who had taken Steinbachek's place in 1995.

Steinbachek died of cancer in 2016. Somerville memorialized Bronski in a tweet.

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