With sadness, we can now confirm rumors of the passing of Poly Styrene, punk rock icon & lead singer of U.K. 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”. She was 54.
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 proto-punk that she pioneered, jazzy experimentation and, more recently, daring power pop and electro-punk. The artists she 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) had long been an outspoken counterculture figure, willing to engage in protest to make her point & was a tireless advocate for the rights of women. Never one to consider herself a protest singer, Styrene 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. Once I got beer thrown over me, but mostly we had really lovely audiences. No one knew us when we started out but then we built up this following of loyal fans. I loved it.”
In recent times, Poly partnered with producer Youth of Killing Joke to create a new album, Generation Indigo (which was officially released stateside today, 26 April).