Steve Bronski, co-founder of pioneering gay band Bronski Beat, dies aged 61

Steve Bronski of Bronski Beat has died at the age of 61

Steve Bronski, co-founder and keyboard player of pop group Bronski Beat, has died.

Bronski, best-known for the LGBT+ anthem “Smalltown Boy”, passed away at 61-years-old. No cause of death has been given.

Jimmy Somerville, who formed Bronski Beat alongside Bronski and Larry Steinbachek, led tributes on Twitter, calling the late star a “very melodic man”. 

“Sad to hear Steve Bronski has died,” he wrote on Twitter. 

“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 was born Steven Forrest in Glasgow and worked as a labourer and stage hand in his youth.

It was after he moved to London that he met his future bandmates. The trio formed Bronski Beat in 1983 when they shared a flat in Brixton, London.

Steinbachek had heard Somerville singing during the making of Framed Youth: The Revenge of the Teenage Perverts, a documentary produced by the London Lesbian and Gay Youth Video Project, and suggested they make music together. 

The band often dealt with issues facing the LGBT+ community, famously performing at the Pits and Perverts concert in support of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. 

Bronski Beat’s debut single “Smalltown Boy” received widespread praise from the LGBT+ community for its video portraying a young, gay man leaving his home town to live in the big city. Their debut album, The Age of Consent, followed in 1984.

The number for the London Gay Switchboard was etched into the single’s runout groove.

Bronski told The Guardian in 2018: “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.”

After news broke of Bronski’s death, writer Matthew Todd said: “A lot of people are called gay, queer icons today but few deserve it as much as Steve Bronski. Out and angry and protesting when almost no famous people dared to. Rest in peace.”

More tributes flooded in on Twitter. One fan wrote: “Your music changed our lives. You let smalltown boys everywhere know that things can get better and that they mattered. You gave the young gay people hope when we needed it. Thanks Jimmy. And thank you Steve Bronski.”

Bronski Beat disbanded in 1995, with Steve Bronski going on to become a producer for other artists.

He then teamed up with Ian Donaldson again in 2016 with an aim to bring the band back. In 2017, the new Bronski Beat released a reworked version of The Age of Consent entitled The Age of Reason, which aimed to support the trans community.

In an interview with Penny Black Music, he said: “The transgender community should not live in fear and gay children should not be bullied.
“We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”

The band’s keyboard player Steinbachek died in 2017 at the age of 56 from cancer.