With sadness, we can now confirm rumors of the passing of Poly Styrene, punk rock icon & lead singer of seminal U.K. punk band X-Ray Spex. According to a posting on her official Facebook page by her long-time friend Symond Lawes, “i just spoke to her mother and its very true, she passed away quietly last night, her mother and daughter were with her, bless you marianne. symond xxx”. The news was further confirmed by her PR team, saying “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.” She was 53.
::: LISTEN ::: [Full Album Stream] Poly Styrene – Generation Indigo
Often considered the original “riot grrrl” (stemming from her band’s first 1977 single, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”), her musical evolution found her wavering between the Germ Free Adolescents proto-punk she pioneered, jazzier experimentations and, more recently, daring power pop, electropop and electro-punk. The artists Poly Styrene has influenced reference a who’s who of popular music over the past 30 years — most recently, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Santigold and The Gossip count among them.
Aside from her status as a punk rock icon, Poly Styrene (born Marian Joan Elliott-Said) has been called “a revolutionary with a genuine love for this world and the people and things in it” by those she worked with. She had long been an outspoken counterculture figure, willing to engage in protest to make her point as a tireless advocate for environmental causes, an opponent of rampant consumerism and fighting for the rights of women. Never one to consider herself a protest singer and openly against being labeled a sex symbol, Styrene instead simply wanted to make a difference in the world. “You don’t think you’re doing anything groundbreaking,” she recently told Sinead Gleeson in an interview. “I just made music because I wanted to put good energy out there. I was young and optimistic and you feel you can do anything.”
In recent times, Poly partnered with producer Martin Glover (aka Youth of the band Killing Joke) to create a new album, Generation Indigo (which was officially released stateside today, 26 April). The album has been the subject of extensive critical acclaim, including Spin Magazine’s 8/10 rating.
On a spiritual level, Poly Styrene’s search for self in the period after X-Ray Spex brought her to the Hare Krishna’s in the early 1980’s, living for several years in a Hertfordshire Krishna temple with her daughter as she struggled to cope with bipolar disorder. In a candid February interview with the Sunday Times, the 53-year-old Styrene announced to the world that she had been diagnosed with & was battling breast cancer. While outward signs seemed to point towards a recovery, it is apparent that she succumbed to the disease last night.
Poly Styrene leaves behind her mother and a daughter, Celeste. Our condolences go out to her family, her friends, and her many fans around the world.
::: X-Ray Spex – Oh Bondage Up Yours! :::
::: Poly Styrene – Generation Indigo Minimix by Youth :::
Here’s a recent interview with rock journalist John Robb about what would become her final album, Generation Indigo. The album, released today in the U.S., was already slated to be streamed in its entirety by Spinner.Com, a stream which can be heard by clicking here.
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Punk icon Poly Styrene dies [BBC]