Gary James Kemp (born 16 October 1959) is an English singer, songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and principal songwriter for the new wave band Spandau Ballet.
Kemp performing live in 2009
|Birth name||Gary James Kemp|
|Born||16 October 1959|
Smithfield, London, England
|Origin||Islington, London, England|
Kemp wrote the lyrics and music for all 23 of Spandau Ballet's hit singles, including "To Cut a Long Story Short", "True", "Gold", "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)", "Through the Barricades" and "Only When You Leave". Spandau Ballet became one of the biggest British bands of the 1980s, generating over 25 million record sales worldwide. In 2012, Kemp was an Ivor Novello Award winner for Outstanding Song Collection. His brother Martin Kemp plays bass guitar in the band and is also an actor. In April 2019, Gary Kemp was touring the USA with Nick Mason's band Saucerful of Secrets and announced in an interview: "There are no plans for Spandau going into 2020."
Kemp was on born 16 October 1959, to parents Eileen and Frank Kemp in St Bartholomew's Hospital, Smithfield, London, within the sound of St Mary-le-Bow's bells and grew up in Islington, London, in a working-class family. He attended Rotherfield Junior School and Dame Alice Owen's grammar school in Islington and later in the sixth form relocated to Potters Bar.
He was active in the Anna Scher Children's Theatre drama club, along with his brother Martin. He acted in various Children's Film Foundation television and film productions beginning with "Junket 89" in 1970, which starred Richard Wilson (later known for One Foot in the Grave). Kemp played the lead role in the 1972 film Hide & Seek alongside Roy Dotrice  which was given a Royal premiere for the CFF's 21st anniversary, attended by the Duchess of Kent. Gary was interviewed about his role for Film 72.
Kemp had a love for glam rock and also an interest in progressive rock. His first musical collaboration was with Anna Scher regulars Phil Daniels and Peter Hugo Daly. He performed with them on the children’s television show, "You Must Be Joking!" in 1975. Aged 14, Kemp played guitar with Islington-based The Same Band and future Spandau Ballet session keyboard player Ian 'Jess' Bailey.
The first band he formed with Alice Owen’s schoolmates Steve Norman, John Keeble and Tony Hadley was called Roots after Kemp and Norman saw the Sex Pistols perform at The Screen on the Green in August 1976. The band changed its name to The Cut then became power pop group The Makers, favourably reviewed by New Musical Express in Dec 1977. Martin Kemp joined as bass player when they became Gentry in July 1978 before transforming into Spandau Ballet and playing live for the first time at Blitz on Weds 5 December 1979. The band's early success was driven by London's burgeoning nightclubbing scene in which Gary Kemp identified Spandau's role: "We are making the most contemporary statement in fashion and music."
After recording Spandau Ballet's final album Heart Like a Sky, in 1989, Kemp and his brother returned to acting. He earned criticism from his fellow band members Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble, but received good reviews for his performance as Ronnie Kray in The Krays (1990). The success of this film was the death-knell for Spandau Ballet.
Spandau played the final live show of their 10th anniversary tour at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 6 March 1990. They would not perform live together again for 19 years.
In 1999, Hadley, Norman and Keeble attempted to sue Kemp for alleged unpaid royalties. They claimed that an agreement had existed between him and the rest of the band, whereby Kemp, who was the main songwriter in the band, would pay his bandmates a share of the royalties earned. The claims were vigorously denied by Kemp; Hadley, Norman and Keeble subsequently lost their court case. Although initially vowing to appeal the verdict, they later decided against this.
After two decades apart the band reformed in 2009 with an announcement on HMS Belfast, venue of one of their earliest secret gigs. Two world tours followed, including five nights at London O2 arena. Their story was documented by the critically acclaimed film Soul Boys of the Western World which premiered at SXSW in 2012 and was screened at film festivals all over the world including Cannes, Rome and NYC Doc.
On 6 June 2018, Spandau Ballet played their first show with new singer Ross William Wild at London’s Subterania after Tony Hadley announced on social media that he had left the band. Spandau subsequently played six European shows in Rome, Milan, Padua, Utrecht and Tilburg with the last of those in London at Eventim Apollo Hammersmith on 29 October 2018. In May 2019 the new recruit Wild tweeted: "I have formally quit the band @SpandauBallet."
Nick Mason's Saucerful of SecretsEdit
Kemp is a longtime fan of Pink Floyd, and in 2018 he was invited by the band's drummer Nick Mason to contribute guitar and vocals to Mason's psychedelic rock band "capturing the spirit" of the early music of Pink Floyd. The band includes Guy Pratt on bass and vocals, Lee Harris on guitar and backing vocals, and Dom Beken on keyboards.
The band made their live debut in May 2018 in front of an invited audience at Dingwalls in London playing a selection of Pink Floyd material released before their 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon. This was followed by three shows at The Half Moon, Putney and a European tour the same year.
In 2019 an extended of the US and Canada was announced starting in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 12 March. This to be followed by five additional UK shows set to run from April to May and another European tour in July the same year.
Other Music ProjectsEdit
Kemp performed "Through the Barricades" solo in December 1985 at London’s Dominion Theatre for the Snowball Review, a fund raiser organised by Pete Townshend for a women’s domestic violence charity. He also played it at the Artists Against Apartheid festival at Clapham Common on 28 June 1986.
Other musical collaborations include writing music and additional lyrics with Guy Pratt for the musical production Bedbug, lyrics and book by Snoo Wilson, a reimagined adaptation of the Vladimir Mayakovsky play, as part of the Shell Connections Youth Drama in 2004 which was presented at the National Theatre and revived there in 2016. He has written another musical, A Terrible Beauty, also with Pratt and Oscar nominated book writer Shane Connaughton (My Left Foot) based on the life of WB Yeats and Maud Gonne.
Kemp’s first Hollywood movie was The Bodyguard, in 1992, with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, directed by Mick Jackson and written by Lawrence Kasdan. He played Sy Spector, Whitney’s character’s Rachel Marron’s music business PR. Other roles include argumentative band leader Jake Woodward in The Larry Sanders Show, in 1993, and Oliver in heist movie, Killing Zoe, directed by Roger Avary and produced by Quentin Tarantino in 1994, Dog Eat Dog, Poppies and American Daylight, and TV roles in Murder in Mind, Murder Investigation Team, and Casualty.
He has continued acting on film, television and stage, taking the role of Serge in the West End production of Art in 2001, Pignight by Snoo Wilson at the Menier Theatre in May 2004 and as corrupt copper PC Collins in the revival of Lionel Bart's musical Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be directed by Terry Johnson at Theatre Royal Stratford East with Jessie Wallace in 2014. He played Teddy in The Homecoming, directed by Jamie Lloyd, at Trafalgar Studios in 2015 and appeared in two plays, Party Time/Celebration, from the Pinter at the Pinter season, which staged all 20 of Harold Pinter’s one act plays in 2018/2019 with a cast including Anthony Sher, John Simm, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig and Danny Dyer.
In January 2008, Kemp appeared on a celebrity special of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with his brother Martin, to raise awareness of and funds for the Encephalitis Society. In March 2008, Kemp starred in a low-budget 20-minute short film directed by his brother Martin, entitled Karma Magnet. This was only released on the internet.
In 2014 Kemp co-wrote and presented the documentary Kick Out the Jams for ITV’s Perspectives about the arrival of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the YBAs (Young British Artists). He also co-wrote Passions: Mick Ronson by Gary Kemp for Sky Arts in 2017.
Kemp was married to actress Sadie Frost. They married when she was 22, on 7 May 1988. Their son, Finlay, was born in 1990. Frost and Kemp were married for five years and then separated, finally divorcing on 19 August 1995. In 2003, Kemp married costume designer Lauren Kemp nee Barber, with whom he has three sons: Milo Wolf (b. 2004), Kit (b. 2009), and Rex (b. 2012). They live in London.
Kemp is a keen cyclist and mountain walker and a lifelong collector of the furniture produced by Edward William Godwin. In 2017, he nominated Godwin for BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives show hosted by Matthew Parris.
In 2013, Kemp said in an interview that he was a Labour Party voter and had always been a supporter of the party because of his father. He supported David Miliband for the leadership of the party. In 1986, Kemp had performed in a show in support of the party at the Manchester Apollo with the collective of musicians Red Wedge, which included Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr and Paul Weller.
Selected films and television include:
- Junket 89 (1970)
- Jackanory (1971)
- Hide & Seek (1972)
- You Must Be Joking! (1975)
- Live Aid (1985)
- The Krays (1990)
- The Bodyguard (1992)
- Paper Marriage (1992)
- The Larry Sanders Show (1993)
- Killing Zoe (1994)
- Magic Hunter (1994)
- Dog Eat Dog (2001)
- American Daylight (2004)
- Casualty (2006 - 2011, two episodes)
- Poppies (2006)
- A Voice From Afar (2006)
- Lewis (2012)
- Assassin (2015)
- Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism (2015)
Kemp has released an autobiography:
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-732330-1.
- He has also contributed articles to GQ, The Times and the Evening Standard.
- Petridis, Alexis (20 September 2018). "Interstellar overdrive: Pink Floyd take Spandau Ballet on a psychedelic trip". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- "Gary James Kemp - Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- "Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Search. findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- Kemp, Gary; Hooper, as told to Mark (1 October 2014). "Spandau Ballet: We wanted to design the next decade's pop culture". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Menefee, Lynne (2 May 2015). "Concert Review: Spandau Ballet at 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C." Maryland Theatre Guide. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- McCarter, Mickey (15 April 2019). "Gary Kemp talks about Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets and Spandau Ballet". ParkLifeDC. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
- Martin Kemp, True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp, p.12
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- "Biography on the Gary Kemp official website". Garykemp.com. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 31–35. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 65–68. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
- Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. www.orsam.co.uk: Orsam Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. www.orsam.co.uk: Orsam Books. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
- Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. www.orsam.co.uk: Orsam Books. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
- Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. www.4thestate.co.uk: Orsam Books. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
- Johnson, David (4 October 2009). "Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics". The Observer. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (21 August 2013), ‘The Krays’ Brothers Martin And Gary Kemp Find New Gangsters To Play In ‘Assassin’, retrieved 5 November 2015
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- "Spandau Ballet in court over royalties". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- "Spandau court bid fails". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- "Spandau three drop royalties appeal". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- "Golden oldies Spandau Ballet to reform". Metro. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Spandau Ballet's Soul Boys Of The Western World, film review: Band". The Independent. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- McCormick, Neil (7 June 2018). "Spandau Ballet review, Subterania: a veteran band energised by their new frontman". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Spandau Ballet Debuts New Singer In London: 'This Is a Rebirth of the Band'". Billboard. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- Pidd, Helen (3 July 2017). "Only when you leave: Tony Hadley quits Spandau Ballet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- @RossWilliamWild (23 May 2019). "I have formally quit the band @SpandauBallet..." (Tweet). Retrieved 10 June 2019 – via Twitter.
- Maxwell, Dominic (23 May 2018). "Pop review: Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets at Dingwalls, NW1". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 247–248. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
- Jacob Young Extends Beauty and the Beast Run to 8/20, 5 July 2006, retrieved 5 November 2015
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. pp. 260–263. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
- Billington, Michael (22 May 2014). "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be review – EastEnder's knees-up in shabby Soho". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Clapp, Susannah (29 November 2015). "The Homecoming review – a great simmerer that keeps coming to the boil". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Gary Kemp on pop, Pre-Raphaelites, politics and playing Pinter". The Spectator. 15 December 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Karma Magnet". icewhole.com. Archived from the original on 23 January 2009.
- "Perspectives Episode 2". Press Centre. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Passions - S1 - Episode 3: Mick Ronson by Gary Kemp". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "BBC Radio 6 Music - Ziggy Played Guitar". BBC. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Mills, Simon (14 May 2009). "Gary Kemp: Personal tragedy revived Spandau Ballet". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 16 May 2009.
- "Gary Kemp on EW Godwin, Series 42, Great Lives - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
- "BBC Radio 4 - Great Lives, Series 42, Gary Kemp on EW Godwin". BBC. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Appoints six new Trustees to the Board of the Theatres Trust". GOV.UK. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- "Celebrities take part in Christmas jumper challenge for Save the Children". Metro. 14 December 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Millard, Rosie (23 March 2013). "Gary Kemp on David Bowie, Margaret Thatcher, and joining the establishment". The Spectator. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. www.4thestate.co.uk: Fourth Estate. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
- Kemp, Gary (19 May 2012). "Gary Kemp: Ziggy Stardust changed my life". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 March 2019.