Steve Bronski, one-third of the influential British synth-pop band and gay pop pioneers Bronski Beat, has passed away at the age of 61. No cause of death was released.
Bandmate Jimmy Somerville posted on social media, “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.”
Bronski, who was a keyboardist, programmer, percussionist, and acoustic guitar player, joined forces with bandmates Larry Steinbachek and Somerville in 1983 and created one of the most iconic Queer songs in music history.
1984’s Smalltown Boy, tells the story of an alienated working class gay teen who, facing prejudice and hate at home, leaves for a new life in London. The song was a massive hit, reaching number three on the UK charts, while charting highly internationally, reaching the top ten in Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and West Germany.
The lyrics to Smalltown Boy still maintain their power years later and evoke the common feelings of alienation and loneliness of many gay youth. “Mother will never understand why you had to leave/But the answers you seek will never be found at home/The love that you need will never be found at home.”
‘We Were Three Gay Guys Who Started A Band’
We’re deeply saddened to hear of the death of Steve Bronski, a key member of iconic queer music act, Bronski Beat.
Here they are on the cover of GAY TIMES in 1984 🌈 pic.twitter.com/YPLb1mecfw
— GAY TIMES (@gaytimes) December 9, 2021
In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, Bronski said, ”At the time we were just three gay guys who started a band. We didn’t feel like part of any particular movement. Of course, it would transpire many years later that there were more gay artists than the public were led to believe.”
A great loss. Steve Bronski was an important figure in so many LGBTQ+ people’s lives. The power of Smalltown Boy, and it’s place in many of us learning who we were, are and could become… We say farewell to an icon x pic.twitter.com/SbrI9oICCs
— Queer Britain (@Queer_Britain) December 9, 2021
The title of the band’s debut album The Age of Consent was a reference to the fact that the legal age of consent for gay sex in the UK at the time was 21 while many other European countries had lowered it to the age of 16, on par with heterosexual sex.
The inner sleeve of the album included notes on the age of consent for gay sex in other international countries. The notes were not included on the album’s US release.
‘There Is Still A Long Way To Go’
The album also included the singles Why? and I Feel Love (Medley) which both made the top ten charts in the UK. The album itself was a solid hit, peaking at number four on UK album charts.
Somerville left the band after the first album to form the Communards with the Reverend Richard Coles but the two remaining members carried on with Bronski Beat, along with new front men until 1995. The band hit the UK top ten again in 1985 with their song Hit That Perfect Beat.
When the band broke up, Bronski moved to Thailand for a number of years.
Steve Bronski reformed the band in 2016, with former member Ian Donaldson and released The Age of Reason, which was a reworked version of The Age of Consent.
Bronski told Pennyblack Music at the time, “We should be living in an age of reason. 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.”