Former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene has died of cancer at the age of 53. She revealed that she was suffering from the illness in February this year. Join us as we look back at the life and career the punk icon.
The following message was posted on the singer’s official Facebook page this morning: “We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go to higher places. Love, the PS Team”
Poly Styrene, real name Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, formed X-Ray Spex in London in 1976. The band released only one studio album (‘Germ Free Adolescents’) in 1978, then she began a solo career. Her latest solo album, ‘Generation Indigo’, was released on March 28 of this year.
Styrene was inspired to form the band after seeing an early Sex Pistols performance on Hastings Pier, on her 18th birthday. Though they only played for a handful of people, she and her friends decided to place an ad in NME and Melody Maker, looking for “young punx who want to stick it together”.
At the age of 15, Poly Styrene ran away from her south London home, with only £3 to her name. She walked and hitch-hiked to various free festivals, until she stepped on a rusty nail while bathing in the river. She then had to be treated for septicaemia.
Poly once said of punk: “So many friends believed 1984 and the apocalypse were coming. I used to read the Book of Revelation. But now I think change is slow. Music changes people’s perceptions. And when they grow up, they might be the president of the United States.” (The Independent, 2008)
John Robb, the journalist/musician who sang backing vocals on ‘Generation Indigo’ said: “She was a wonderful, warm eccentric woman in all the best possible ways and an all too rare positive spirit in a cynical world.”
Although the news has just been announced, there is already an outpouring of sentiment from her peers. Boy George wrote on his Twitter: “I was a fan of Poly before I got to know her, she was a Krishna follower too, oh bless you Poly you will be missed! Legend!”
The singer is survived by her one daughter, Celeste Bell-Dos Santos, who is a teacher and is the frontwoman for the band Debutant Disco based in Madrid.
Last year, Poly Styrene told BBC 6 Music: “I know I’ll probably be remembered for ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’. I’d like to remembered for something a bit more spiritual.”