Steve Bronski has died (born Steve Forrest, February 7, 1960 to December 9, 2021), age 61. He was a “Smalltown Boy” who made a big splash, creating an all-time classic song and video that spoke to and for a generation of young LGBTQIA people. When you live in a society that doesn’t want you, despises you or outright hates you, knowing you’re not alone makes a difference.
Steve Bronski, a founding member of the influential British synth-pop trio Bronski Beat, has died, a source close to the group has confirmed. The BBC reported his age as 61. No cause of death was given.
His bandmate Jimmy Somerville described him as a “talented and 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, AKA Steven Forrest, formed the band alongside Somerville and Larry Steinbachek 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. America’s Spin magazine described them as “perhaps the first real gay group in the history of pop”.
See below the fold for more about that.
When the song came out in 1984, I was seventeen and NOT out, still in my rabid Metalhead phase, still trying to hide my preferences and identity. It was a small (minded) town and family that were rabidly gay hating, racist, and redneck, so the song was not popular. (It is any wonder I haven’t communicated with anyone in twenty years?) I couldn’t admit how the song resonated with me and I identified with it, admit to listening to or liking it. But I still did.
(Don’t get me wrong. Listening to Metal wasn’t done to “compensate” or put up a macho front. In recent years, I’m listening to more and more Black Metal and Death Metal than ever. Looking back, I wish Rob Halford had come out as gay in the 1980s instead of waiting until 1998. I would have been a bigger Priest fan than Iron Maiden, though I still liked both.)
The song made a difference to millions of people’s lives, to know that somebody felt the same things, had the same experiences. When you learn for the first time that you’re not the only one who feels this way, it changes your view of the world. It gives you hope.
As noted in the item below, Bronski wasn’t self-serving or limited in his vision:
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.”
[. . .]
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.”
I would have said “Soft Cell could argue to be first as the first gay band” but screw them. Marc Almond has a “cis gays first and only” attitude. As seen above, Steve Bronski cared about everyone, my criteria for being a decent human being.