The biggest story dominating the front pages of UK newspapers this past weekend was the shocking news of former boy bander Stephen Gately’s untimely death. The 33-year old who co-fronted the Irish pop group, Boyzone, was found dead in his partner’s apartment in Majorca Spain. Details are still hazy as to the cause of death, but both suicide and foul play have been ruled out. Early reports say Gately had gone out for drinks, returned to his accommodation, fallen asleep, but never woke up.
The Dublin born pop singer, along with his Boyzone band mates dominated the UK charts in the 90s. Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Gately’s death was “a huge tragedy to Irish entertainment, Irish music and further afield as well.” Boyzone sold millions of records and topped the British charts with six No. 1 singles during the 1990s, including “All That I Need” and a cover of the Bee Gees’ “Words.” They were often compared to their British pop rivals, Take That. The two UK groups often competed with each other for pop dominance in the pop charts and press. Surviving members of Boyzone- Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham, Shane Lynch- were completely shocked and sadden by the news and issued a joint statement.
“We are completely devastated by the loss of our friend and brother, Stephen. We have shared such wonderful times together over the years and were all looking forward to sharing many more. Stephen was a beautiful person in both body and spirit. He lit up our lives and those of the many friends he had all over the world. Our love and sympathy go out to Andrew and Stephen’s family. We love you and will miss you forever, ‘Steo’”
Boyzone was formed by Louis Walsh who placed an ad looking for member’s for Ireland’s first boy band. Random fact, one of the unsuccessful auditioners was none other than Irish bad boy himself, Colin Farrell. Who knew he could sing?
At the young age of 23, Gately made worldwide headlines in June 1999 when he publicly came out in the British paper, The Sun. He sold his story to the newspaper fearing a former employee of their security team was going to out him. Being openly gay didn’t hurt his career as he found huge success in theatre, TV and a solo career after the group disbanded.
In 2003, Gately and his boyfriend Andrew Cowles took part in a commitment ceremony in a Las Vegas chapel while vacationing in “Sin City”. The two made it more official in 2006 when they entered a civil partnership in London. Cowles, an internet businessman, was introduced to Gately by mutual friends Elton John and his partner David Furnish. In the wake of this tragedy, Elton John has also released a statement
“Stephen was the kindest, gentlest soul. We send our love and condolences to his partner Andy and to all his friends everywhere,”….. [we] were stunned by this tragedy.
I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more of this in the coming days ahead until the final cause of his death is determined. Though I wasn’t too familiar with their music, I admire Gately for coming out despite being in one of the biggest groups in the world at the time- years before Lance Bass even thought about it. It’s even more refreshing to see that being openly gay didn’t affect his career in a negative manner.
UPDATE: The official cause of death is now in. A postmortem has concluded that Stephen Gately died of natural causes. The official statement says Gately suffered a pulmonary oedema, an accumulation of fluid on the lungs.
The findings seem to backup speculation that Stephen died choking on his own vomit after a night of drinking. Reports also say that Andrew Cowles, his partner, found him the next day and tried to revive him but to avail. I can’t even begin to think what was going through his mind. My heart goes out to Andrew and of course Gately’s family. I would be absolutely beside myself if I found the love of my life in that circumstance.
Here’s a video to one of their biggest hits, Words- a remake of the Bee Gees classic.