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Pete Burns, Singer of Dead or Alive, Dies

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Pete Burns, who, as the lead singer for Dead or Alive, had one of British synth-pop’s defining hits in “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” died yesterday (October 23). The cause of death is being listed as a heart attack. He was 57.

The news was broken on his official Twitter feed, where the band’s drummer and manager, Steve Coy, civil partner Michael Simpson and ex-wife Lynne Corlett sent out the following message. “It is with the greatest sadness that we have to break the tragic news that out beloved Pete Burns of (Dead or Alive), died suddenly yesterday of a massive cardiac arrest. All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star.”

“He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul, and he will be missed by all who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories the has left is with. We have no more words, we will make a further statement when we have had a chance to come to terms with our devastating loss. He will live forever in our memories. Sending you all our love.”

Born on Aug. 5, 1959, Burns formed Dead or Alive in Liverpool in 1980 after having been in Mystery Girls and Nightmares in Wax. After a handful of singles, their debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom, saw them get a toe in the door of the dance chart. But 1985’s Youthquake, bolstered by the success of “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” — it barely missed the U.S. Top 10 but went to No. 1 in the U.K. and several other countries — broke them globally, with Burns’ androgynous appearance serving as the visual focal point.

They would continue to place songs on the upper regions of Billboard‘s dance chart throughout the ’80s, though only 1986’s “Brand New Lover” cracked the Top 20 of the Hot 100. By 1989, the band was just Burns and Coy, and they would continue working together, with the three records they put out between 1990 and 2000 being available only in Japan. A 19-CD set called Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI that featured everything they released, including dozens of remixes, is scheduled to be released this Friday (October 28).

Burns later gained fame in Britain as a contestant on the reality show Celebrity Big Brother, where he finished in fifth place in 2006 and regularly feuded with the other residents. This led to more reality show work, and his penchant for cosmetic surgery became tabloid fodder. In 2009, he won £450,000 in damages in a lawsuit against a plastic surgeon after a botched job on his lips.

“As I looked in the mirror it felt like everything I had worked for was ruined due to the disabling injuries I suffered caused by Dr Maurizio Viel,” he told the Daily Mail. “I am just glad the case is now over.”

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