Poly Styrene (3 July 1957-25 April 2011)
Pioneering punk musician Poly Styrene was born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said in Kent, and raised by her mother in Brixton.
Her teenage years in the early to mid 70s were sometimes chaotic. Running away from South London she drifted from hippy communes to music festivals. But it was witnessing a Sex Pistols performance on her 15th birthday in 1975 that was to propel her life in a dramatic new direction (leading to her ridiculously short experience of the limelight). Inspired by the Pistols scorn of the tired trappings of traditional rock, she formed her own punk band, X-Ray Spex, relishing in her pivotal role as a completely original and 'un rock n'roll' singer/songwriter.
Her feminist ideals, together with her braces, dayglo wardrobe and mixed-race background, made her the antithesis of what females were expected to conform to in the 70s rock world. Naturally her free spirit and the vivid melodies of her band eventually struck a chord with London's gathering punk scene. The early X-Ray Spex singles remain classics of the genre.
After suffering hallucinations after a gig in 1978 she was diagnosed as schizophrenic (although this was later revised to bipolar). She drifted away from punk music just as it was losing its momentum, not to say any remaining shreds of originality. Her later solo work eschewed the crashing chords of 'Identity' or 'Let's Submerge', replacing them with a much subtler, jazzier sound, anticipating the likes of Everything But The Girl by several years.
Her last solo album, Generation Indigo, produced by Youth (Killing Joke) was released in October 2010 and was instantly acclaimed by BBC 6 Music. A single 'Black Christmas' was released in November 2010, in collaboration with her daughter Celeste.
At the tragically young age of 53 she succumbed to cancer.
"An observer, not a suffering artist writing from tortured experiences. I was playing with words and ideas. Having a laugh about everything, sending it up".