Lead singer of 70s punk act X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene, passed away in her sleep last night after a battle with breast cancer. She was 53. Styrene was diagnosed with the illness two months ago after finishing her solo album Generation Indigo, which comes out today.
Known for her signature braces and fluorescent clothing, Styrene helped to pioneer female-fronted punk groups and inspired the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeah, Le Tigre and Gossip. Styrene fronted the X-ray Spex throughout the late 70’s, with the group’s album Germ Free Adolescents considered ground breaking in the realm of punk music. Styrene formed the group with childhood friend Susan Whitby—better known as Lora Logic on the sax—in 1976, releasing the feminist-powered “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” Born Marianna Elliot Said in Brixton, Styrene broke stereotype barriers being bi-racial and female in a genre that was ruled by white men.
After leaving home at age 15 to attend rock festivals in England, an 18-year-old Styrene returned and set up her own boutique in Chelsea where she soon adopted many of her Poly Styrene characteristics. She quickly formed a band that became the X-Ray Spex whose fun-loving attitude brought a new dimension to England’s dreary punk scene. The group only released one more album after its debut when it reformed in the 90’s with Conscious Consumer but Styrene continued to make music with her newest release. It which maintains her revolutionary style and activist tendencies, including songs about cruelty-free products, racism, the less fortunate and looking past appearances before judging others.
Styrene was in the company of her mother and her daughter, Celeste Bell-Dos Santos, at the time of her passing. Styrene’s official Twitter feed made a formal announcement of her passing stating: “We can confirm that the beautiful Poly Styrene, who has been a true fighter, won her battle on Monday evening to go higher places.”