Steve Harley, frontman of rock band Cockney Rebel and a former Essex journalist, has died “peacefully at home, with his family” aged 73.

He was best known for his rock band, which scored a UK number one with “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” and another four hit singles during the mid-1970s.

Last month, the singer’s team announced he would be pausing his tour to undergo treatment for cancer.

A statement from his daughter, 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.”

Braintree and Witham Times: Make Me Smile - the Cockney Rebel frontman left journalism to pursue his passion for music in the early 1970s.Make Me Smile - the Cockney Rebel frontman left journalism to pursue his passion for music in the early 1970s. (Image: Victoria Jones/PA)

The “Make Me Smile” singer shot to fame in the 1970s. His band’s 1975 single reached the number one spot on the UK Chart in February of that year, before reaching number 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in 1976.

But prior to that, Steve – whose real name was Stephen Nice – worked as a journalist for several Essex newspapers.

In the late 1960s, Steve trained with Essex County Newspapers, going on to work at the Essex County Standard, the Braintree and Witham Times, the Maldon and Burnham Standard and the Colchester Evening Gazette.

He later returned to his native London to work for the East London Advertiser. However, he was reportedly unwilling to write a story about a woman who had “inadvertently” taken two tins of food from a shop. Determined to get himself sacked, the singer refused to wear a tie and grew his hair long. Steve succeeded in getting dismissed in 1971.

Unlike his contemporaries, publisher John Blake and Good Morning Britain’s Richard Madeley, Steve left the industry to pursue his passion for music.

Over half a century in the music business, Steve racked up one UK number one, two UK top tens, and four UK top 40s.