Born as Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice in Deptford, London (UK) on 27 February 1951. During the summer of 1953 he contracted polio. He underwent two major surgeries in 1963 and 1966. After recovering from the first operation at the age of 12, Harley was introduced to the poetry of T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence, the prose of John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway, and the music of Bob Dylan, which inspired him to a career of words and music.
From the age of 9, Harley began taking classical violin lessons and would later play as part of his Grammar school orchestra. At the age of 10, he began learning the guitar. He left school without completing his advanced level exams. At the age of 17, Harley began working as a trainee accountant with the Daily Express. This was his first full-time job. From there he progressed to become a reporter. After being interviewed by several newspaper editors, Harley signed to train with Essex County Newspapers. Over the duration of three years, Harley worked at the Essex County Standard, the Braintree and Witham Times, the Maldon and Burnham Standard and the Colchester Evening Gazette. He later returned to London to work for the East London Advertiser. Harley became disillusioned with the job when his editor insisted he write a report on a shoplifter who had absentmindedly walked out with a tin of soup and a tin of baked beans. Taking advice from his union representative, he stopped wearing a tie, grew his hair and was duly sacked.
Harley started his musical career playing in bars and clubs in 1971, mainly at folk venues on open-mike nights. In 1972 he formed the band Cockney Rebel together with Jean-Paul Crocker, Stuart Elliott, Paul Jeffreys and Nick Jones. They enjoyed a successful career with hits like ‘Sebastian’ and ‘Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile)’ between 1972 and 1977.
In 1977 Steve Harley started a solo career, debuting with ‘Hobo With A Grin’ in 1978. When his second album ‘The Candidate’ (1979) failed to generate sales, he was dropped from his label EMI.
On 12 May 1979 Steve Harley and Peter Gabriel appeared alongside Kate Bush during two Hammersmith Odeon concerts in aid of Bill Duffield. On stage, they sang Them Heavy People, The Woman With The Child In Her Eyes and Let It Be together.
In the 1980’s, Steve Harley distanced himself from the music business while his two children were growing up. In 1989, Harley formed a new line-up of Cockney Rebel and started to tour again. He alternated between touring with Cockney Rebel and releasing his own material and touring solo. As a solo artist, he released the albums ‘Yes You Can’ (1992), ‘Poetic Justice’ (1996) and ‘Stranger Comes To Town’, and with Cockney Rebel he released ‘The Quality Of Mercy’ (2010).
In November 2016, Harley was one of a number of musicians who teamed up with British Members of Parliament and the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus to record a charity version of the Rolling Stones song ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in memory of Labour MP Jo Cox. The song was released in December 2016, with all proceedings going to the Jo Cox Foundation.