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Sir Rod Stewart ‘absolutely devastated’, as he leads tributes to Steve Harley

Sir Rod Stewart has said he is “absolutely devastated” following the death of Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley.

The musician, whose rock band rose to prominence in the 1970s, died “peacefully at home” aged 73, his family announced.

British rock singer Sir Rod paid tribute to the musician, who he had “loved” and “admired”.

In a statement seen by the PA news agency, he said: “Absolutely devastated, words fail me.

“The Cockney Rebel has left us.

“Loved you and admired you Steve and always will. Sir Rod Stewart.”

Harley had helped to write a number of songs for Sir Rod and the former Faces frontman covered Harley’s song, A Friend For Life, which featured on his 2015 studio album Another Country.

Steve Harley, centre, and Cockney Rebel in 1975
Steve Harley, centre, and Cockney Rebel were top of the best selling pop charts with Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) in 1975 (PA)

Pop band Duran Duran covered Cockney Rebel’s most famous song, Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), and bassist John Taylor thanked Harley for the music and “good vibes”.

In a statement, seen by PA, he said: “Man, Cockney Rebel were awesome, first two albums – perfection.

“Then the number one pop song ‘Come Up And See Me’ took Harley to the mainstream.

“We were so lucky to have him guest with us on that song… the moment Steve entered was truly chilling, and I still remember it today. An amazing moment.

“Thanks Steve for the music and your good vibes. We shall miss you.”

Steve Harley with Dorothy Crombie after their wedding at Marylebone Register Office in London in 1981
Steve Harley with Dorothy Crombie after their wedding at Marylebone Register Office in London in 1981 (PA)

The late musician had been touring last year but was forced to cancel dates in November and December as he underwent treatment for a “nasty cancer”.

A statement from his wife, Dorothy, and children, Kerr and Greta, said he had “passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side”.

They said the musician would be “desperately missed by people all over the world”.

In a post on his official website on Christmas Eve, Harley had wished his fans a “happy, healthy New Year” as he revealed he had cancer.

He said: “I’m fighting a nasty cancer. My oncologist is pleased with the treatment’s effects so far. It’s tiresome, and tiring. But the fight is on.”

Lead singer of Culture Club, Boy George, said he cried following Harley’s death.

“Amazing songwriter. One of my heroes.” he wrote on X.

Singer-songwriter Mike Batt, who worked with Harley on a number of songs including 1983’s Ballerina (Prima Donna) and 1988 charity single Whatever You Believe, hailed the musician as a “dear pal” and “lovely guy”.

“I was just writing about him yesterday in my autobiography”, Batt added in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“What a talent. What a character. What a lovely guy. My condolences to Dorothy and all. RIP, mate. Will write more soon.”

Scottish musician Midge Ure, who produced Harley’s 1982 track I Can’t Even Touch You, hailed him as a “true ‘working musician’”.

“He toured until he could tour no more, playing his songs for fans old and new”, he wrote on social media.

Steve Harley death
Steve Harley attended the Sony Radio Academy Awards in London in 2006 (Ian West/PA)

“My thoughts go out to Dorothy and his family at this very sad time. Our songs live on longer than we ever can.”

TV presenter Lorraine Kelly also said she “loved his music” and recalled watching the band as a teenager as she paid tribute.

Paul Henderson, former editor of the Sunday Mirror who worked with Harley in the East London Advertiser newsroom in the 1970s, described him as a “great musician” and a “deep-thinking, compassionate man who wanted the best for his family and friends”.

Harley was born in Deptford, south London, in 1951 and due to a childhood illness, he spent almost four years in hospital.

His band Cockney Rebel released their debut studio album, The Human Menagerie, in 1973 and followed it up with 1974’s The Psychomodo which went to number eight in the UK charts.

Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel performed at Let’s Rock Leeds 80s (Alamy/PA)
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel performed at Let’s Rock Leeds 80s (Alamy/PA)

The band regrouped and changed its name to Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and it was under this moniker they released a string of albums including 1975’s The Best Years Of Our Lives, which peaked at number four.

It also contained Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me), which went to number one in the UK charts and was later covered by dozens of artists and featured in films including The Full Monty.

For the original 1986 run of Phantom Of The Opera, Harley duetted with Sarah Brightman on the title track, which went to number seven in the charts.

He was originally cast in the titular role for the musical but was later replaced by Michael Crawford.

In 2016, the musician joined fellow artists including Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and singer-songwriter KT Tunstall on a charity single recorded in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox.