Pete Burns, lead singer of pop outfit Dead Or Alive, has died of cardiac arrest, aged 57.
The singer, who rose to fame internationally in the early 1980s with the single You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), was renowned for his cunning wit and hitting critique of peers, rivals and the music industry itself.
Burns published a tell-all autobiography in 2006, entitled Freak Unique, in which he told of a rocky childhood, an addiction to cosmetic surgery (he once said “changing my face is like buying a new sofa”) and revealed tid-bits of solacious information about prominent figures in the music scene.
That same year he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, coming fifth in the final.
A statement released by his longterm partner, Michael Simpson, his ex-wife Lynne Corlette (with whom he remained great friends), and his manager and former band member, Steve Coy, read: “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star. He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul and will be missed by all those who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories he has left us with.”
Burns became famous for his commentary on gender, admitting to taking much of his aesthetic inspiration from rock idol David Bowie and even releasing several covers of Bowie songs.
Once described by Cream as “a toxic combination of traditional masculinity and flamboyant femininity”, Burns told the magazine, “I think in our lifetime we’ll see physical mutations in gender. I do believe there’ll be more than two genders on a scientific level; mankind has got to mutate in some way. There might be a third, maybe even a fourth gender. I just hope I’m around to see it.”
Boy George, who Burns once accused of stealing his style, paid tribute to the singer on Twitter, writing: “Tearful about the passing of Pete Burns; one of our great true eccentrics and such a big part of my life.”
Having lived out his life in full public glare, Pete Burns will be remembered not only for his outrageous look and critique of the pop industry at large, but for delivering a barrage of addictive dance music, including the songs Lover Come Back, That’s The Way (I Like It), Rebel Rebel, In Too Deep, and perhaps the song whose title posed the most irony, My Heart Goes Bang.
Those close to Burns noted that despite being branded with a bitchy reputation, the artist actually possessed a very sensitive side. He once told Cream, “It was very easy to be bitchy and flippant; none of it was particularly meant or heartfelt.” Antonino Tati
Main photography (top of story) by Phil Paratore.