Tributes have poured in after the death of Suffolk-based 1970s music icon Steve Harley, best known as frontman of Cockney Rebel.

He died at his family home in Clare, near Sudbury, on Sunday morning at the age of 73 after a short battle with cancer.

The singer and songwriter had a music career spanning 50 years, with chart hits like Make Me Smile and Here Comes The Sun.

East Anglian Daily Times: Steve Harley performing on stage

A statement from his wife Dorothy and children Kerr and Greta said: “We are devastated to announce that our wonderful husband and father has passed away peacefully at home, with his family by his side.

“The birdsong from his woodland that he loved so much was singing for him. His home has been filled with the sounds and laughter of his four grandchildren.

“Stephen. Steve. Dad. Grandar. Steve Harley. Whoever you know him as, his heart exuded only core elements. Passion, kindness, generosity. And much more, in abundance.

“We know he will be desperately missed by people all over the world, and we ask that you respectfully allow us privacy to grieve.”

In a post on his official website on Christmas Eve, he said: “I’m fighting a nasty cancer. My oncologist is pleased with the treatment’s effects so far. It’s tiresome, and tiring. But the fight is on. And thankfully the cursed intruder is not affecting the voice. I sing and play most evenings.”

Born in south London in 1951, Mr Harley began his career as a trainee accountant, before becoming an established newspaper reporter.

His music career began in 1971, with the band Cockney Rebel formed soon after.

East Anglian Daily Times:

The group of Harley, Jean-Paul Crocker, drummer Stuart Elliott, bassist Paul Jeffreys and guitarist Nick Jones released their first album in 1973, before their 1994 The Psychomodo album went to number eight in the charts.

Mr Harley previous told the EADT: “Playing live is the biggest thrill there is. Every night is different. Every audience and every town have their own personality, and I am a relentless explorer. I love it more now than ever. I cannot imagine stopping it. It’s what I do - play and sing.”

The rockstar moved to Suffolk with his wife, though his family had strong existing links with the county. His great grandfather came from East Anglia, while his maternal grandmother had roots in the Lavenham area.

Stephen Foster, a local DJ who spent time at BBC Radio Suffolk and now works for Radio Caroline, interviewed Mr Harley several times.

He said: “Steve was very open and loved being interviewed. He loved talking about music. As a former journalist, he enjoyed being in the radio studio just like the recording studio.

“He didn’t suffer fools and wouldn’t go on stage until he was happy everything was just right. He took his work seriously and was one of the great lyricists and wordsmiths.

“He was always well regarded by people in the business and his legion of fans. He leaves us with a huge legacy of great songs. They’re great records and he was a 1970s icon.”

East Anglian Daily Times:

As well as success with Cockney Rebel, Mr Harley also recorded the song Phantom of the Opera with Sarah Brightman, which became a UK hit single in 1986.

Tributes have poured in from across the music industry.

Singer Mike Batt, who worked with Harley on several songs including 1983’s Ballerina (Prima Donna), called the star a “dear pal” and “lovely guy”.

Scottish musician Midge Ure, who produced Harley’s 1982 track I Can’t Even Touch You, said: “Steve Harley was a true ‘working musician’.

“He toured until he could tour no more, playing his songs for fans old and new.

“My thoughts go out to Dorothy and his family at this very sad time. Our songs live on longer than we ever can.”

The Beat Magazine, a music magazine featuring artists from the 1960s to 1980s, said: “We are sad to hear news that singer and songwriter Steve Harley has passed away. The former Cockney Rebel singer featured in the Beat recently. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and everyone at the Beat sends their condolences at this sad time.”

Dan Chisholm, a broadcaster and music producer, said: “Sad to read that cancer has beaten Steve Harley. I worked with him at Concert At The Kings and will never forget how he auctioned off his best guitar to raise funds for cancer charities. It raised £10k after he threw in a house concert. His music lives on.”

East Anglian Daily Times:

Beyond music, Mr Harley was an avid horse racing fan and was regularly spotted at Newmarket Races.

He lived in East Anglia for nearly 30 years and performed frequently across the region.

He leaves behind his wife Dorothy, children Kerr and Greta, and four grandchildren.