Steve Bronski, co-founder of Bronski Beat passes away at 61

Image via London Recordings (YouTube)

Musician Steve Bronski has passed away aged 61. There is currently no known cause of death.

Born as Steve Forrest, he founded Bronski Beat in 1983 alongside Jimmy Somerville and Larry Steinbachek. The band trailblazed in music as an openly gay trio of artists who openly challenged cultural norms and political ideas. 

Their first album, The Age of Consent, was released in 1984 and is their best-selling album and the only album with Sommerville, who left the band the following year.

Steinbachek passed away in 2017, the same year the trio (with Ian Donaldson and Stephen Granville joining the group) made their first album in 22 years. The current only surviving member of the original band line-up is vocalist Jimmy Somerville, who had both a credible solo career and joined The Communards after The Age of Consent was released.

Bronski Beat’s role in the counter-culture of the 1980s as a symbol for gay rights remains pertinent to this day. Their album The Age of Consent reflects laws that only partially decriminalized “homosexual acts” in 1967. They set the age of consent of 21 in the United Kingdom – much higher than 16 in most of Europe.

Bronski Beat’s 2017 album The Age of Reason feels like an even more fitting final album for the group, completing a circle. The album came out during a time of more progressive attitudes towards homosexuality; that same year, the Alan Turing Act passed in the United Kingdom, pardoning those convicted of consensual sex between men.

Bronski Beat is best known for their song “Smalltown Boy,” about growing up gay and facing alienation from society and peers. Smalltown Boy has over 160 million streams on Spotify, and the official music video has 67 million views on YouTube. 

Bronski lived to see a turning point in gay rights, and his contributions to music and tolerance cannot be forgotten.