Stephen Gately: Singer with Boyzone and solo star who 'came out'

With cloying, sentimental ballads like "All That I Need", "You Needed Me" and "Everyday I Love You", revivals of past pop classics such as the Osmonds' "Love Me For a Reason", Cat Stevens' "Father And Son", and the Bee Gees' "Words", and albums aimed at mums and teenage girls and released with the marketing muscle to match, the Irish group Boyzone dominated the British charts throughout the second half of the Nineties. Indeed, they ran close seconds to Take That, their nearest rivals and arguably the blueprint for their success.

Stephen Gately sang lead on "No Matter What", the fourth of Boyzone's six British No 1 singles, and seconded main vocalist Ronan Keating more convincingly than fellow members Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch on their four chart-topping albums – Said and Done, A Different Beat, Where We Belong and the By Request collection.

Gately was the group's undisputed pin-up and, for many people, its sole redeeming feature. However, he also hid his homosexuality for the first five years of the group's career. "It was so stressful," he told The Independent in 2001. "You had to think of completely hiding your sexuality. All those questions that you had to dodge. 'Who's your favourite girl?', 'Which girls do you fancy?'– So I can't express what a weight it was off my shoulders," he said of his eventual "outing" by The Sun in 1999.

Boyzone had been assembled by Louis Walsh, the Irish svengali and current X Factor judge, and Gately exemplified the way former members of such manufactured acts can go on to careers as all-round entertainers. After Keating went solo with "When You Say Nothing At All", the ghastly theme song from Richard Curtis' Notting Hill movie, in 1999, Gately scored three hit singles of his own the following year, including "I Believe", from the soundtrack of the Stephen Daldry film Billy Elliot, and a cover of "Bright Eyes", the Art Garfunkel hit composed by Mike Batt, revived for a new TV adaptation of the Richard Adams novel Watership Down. But Gately fell victim to the vagaries of the teen market and was dropped by his record company Polydor after his only album, New Beginning, spent just a month in the charts, while Keating's debut Ronan stayed on the listings for over a year.

Undaunted, the proactive Gately took the lead role in a new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and earned rave reviews for his stints in London's West End in 2003. The Independent reviewer even claimed: "Gately makes all of the audience fall for him." The next year, Gately insisted he be cast against type and excelled as the evil child catcher in a musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. He also appeared in pantomime as Dandini in Cinderella in 2005 – and played the scarecrow in a production of The Wizard Of Oz in Canterbury in April 2006.

Gately was game enough to participate in an All Star Talent Show for Channel Five in 2006, and the second series of ITV's Dancing On Ice two years ago. In 2008, Gately joined Keating and co in a revival of the Boyzone franchise, which proved less successful than Take That's comeback despite the Top 5 single "Love You Anyway".

Born in 1976, Gately was one of five siblings and grew up in small flat in Seville Place, a run-down housing estate in Dublin. "My dad used to be a painter and decorator, which was a nightmare for me, because sometimes I had to go to work with him, for a pound a day, and scrape about 20 walls. But my dad kind of taught me, and that was nice," he recalled in 2001.

A shy boy, he came alive on stage and showed promise as teenage member of the Gaiety Theatre Group. In 1991, he appeared as an extra in Alan Parker's The Commitments. His big break came in 1993 when he and his friend Colin Farrell spotted a newspaper ad placed by Walsh who planned to form "the Irish Take That". Despite his diminutive stature, Gately impressed with his ability to dance and sing his way through four separate auditions as the manager whittled away the 250 applicants down, eventually, to five.

After issuing a remake of the Four Seasons' hit "Working My Way Back To You" in Ireland, the group signed to Polydor in 1994 and began their assault on the charts. Gately was singled out for attention and sang "Shooting Star", the theme tune for the Disney film Hercules, in 1997, as well as "No Matter What", from the Webber musical Whistle Down The Wind, which became Boyzone's biggest hit, selling over a million copies in the UK in 1998.

After admitting to The Sun he was "gay and in love" with Eloy De Jong, of the Dutch-English boy band Caught In The Act, in 1999, Gately expected a backlash but was pleasantly surprised by the rapturous reception Boyzone enjoyed at a live appearance at Hyde Park for Capital Radio's Party In The Park. In 2006, he became a vice-patron of the National Missing Persons Helpline charity, and married his partner Andrew Cowles, in a civil ceremony. He had been working on a children's fantasy novel entitled The Tree Of Seasons.

Paying tribute to Gately, Alan Edwards, the CEO of PR company the Outside Organisation, said: "Stephen was a gentle soul without a bad bone in his body. Always full of enthusiasm, and a pleasure to spend time with."

The band said in a statement: "We are devastated by the loss of our friend and brother, Stephen. He lit up our lives. Our love and sympathy go out to Andrew and Stephen's family."

Pierre Perrone

Stephen Patrick David Gately, singer, songwriter, actor: born Dublin, 17 March 1976; married Andrew Cowles (civil partnership, 2006); died Port d'Andratx, Majorca, 10 October 2009.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?