Steve Bronski of the Bronski Beat has died, the ’80s group shared on social media on Thursday (Dec. 9). He was 61, according to the BBC.
“He was 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,” read a message on the group’s Instagram account that was signed by original member Jimmy Somerville.
The synthpop trio formed in 1983, with Bronski on keyboards and percussion, Somerville on vocals, and Larry Steinbachek also on keyboards and percussion. Their debut single, “Small Town Boy,” arrived in June 1984, and peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1985, and was their only single to earn a spot on the chart. But the tune also managed to top Dance Club Songs chart for a week in February 1985.
“Small Town Boy” was about a young gay man who leaves town after being beaten by a group of homophobic men. “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,” the lyrics went. “Pushed around and kicked around, always a lonely boy/ You were the one that they’d talk about around town as they put you down.”
That story was also reflected in the musical video. The visual showed Somerville admiring a handsome young man who’s swimming, and later being cornered by a gang and eventually leaving home after his parents appear to learn that he’s gay. On the train out of town, he’s reunited with his two friends, Steinbachek and Bronski.
“At the time we were just three gay guys who started a band — we didn’t feel like part of any particular movement,” Bronski told The Guardian in 2018. “Of course, it would transpire many years later that there were more gay artists than the public were led to believe.”
“Small Town Boy” was one of the tracks on the group’s debut album, The Age of Consent, which arrived in October 1984. A remastered version was released in 2018 to mark its 35th anniversary.
Somerville eventually left the trio to form another group, though Bronski Beat went on through the ’80s and ’90s. Steinbachek died in 2017.
See Somerville’s tribute to Bronski below: