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  • Writer's pictureThe British Polio Fellowship

Steve Harley, musician and polio survivor dies, age 73

A sad day for music fans across the world, as Steve Harley, polio survivor and frontman of 70s rock band Cockney Rebel, dies peacefully at home aged 73.


Last month, singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Harley announced he wouldn't be playing any further concerts this year because of on-going treatment for cancer. He had hoped to return to the stage next year, but sadly he passed away earlier today.


Born in 1951 in Deptford, South London, Steve contracted polio during the polio epidemic of 1954, aged 3 years. At the time there was no polio vaccine in the UK. The first vaccine, discovered by Dr. Jonas Salk wasn't introduced in the UK until 1956.


Steve's father found his son lying in bed lethargic and sweating profusely, complaining he couldn't feel his left leg, it was numb. He was rushed to hospital, and it was confirmed Steve had polio.

His left leg was shorter than his right and aged 12, he went back into hospital for an extremely painful surgical procedure to prevent his good leg from growing further. He sent four years going in and out of hospital, but despite the surgery, Steve wore a built-up shoe and walked with a limp.


While in the hospital, one of Steve's school teachers sent him books and he soon discovered a love of poetry, words and music.


In 1972, Steve formed the band Cockney Rebel with Jean-Paul Crocker, Paul Jeffreys and Stuart Elliott. Their biggest hit was in 1975 with Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), a track on their album, The Best Years of our Lives.


The following year, the band had a hit with a version of The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun. But after just three albums they disbanded in 1977. Steve continued as a solo artist and wrote for other performers, such as Rod Stewart.

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