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Gary Kemp

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Gary Kemp
Kemp in 2022
Background information
Birth nameGary James Kemp
Born (1959-10-16) 16 October 1959 (age 64)
Smithfield, London, England
OriginIslington, London, England
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • actor
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • synthesiser
  • drums
  • piano
Years active1970–present
Member ofNick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets
Formerly of

Gary James Kemp (born 16 October 1959) is an English songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and principal songwriter for the new wave band Spandau Ballet.

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,[2] generating over 25 million record sales worldwide.[3] In 2012, Kemp was an Ivor Novello Award winner for Outstanding Song Collection.[3] His brother Martin Kemp plays bass guitar in the band and is also an actor. Since 2018, Kemp has also toured the US and Europe with the psychedelic rock group Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets.

Early life[edit]

Gary James Kemp[4][5] was on born 16 October 1959, to parents Eileen and Frank Kemp in St Bartholomew's Hospital,[6] Smithfield, London, within the sound of St Mary-le-Bow's bells[7] 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,[8] 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).[9] Kemp played the lead role in the 1972 film Hide and Seek alongside Roy Dotrice[8] 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.[10]

Kemp had a love for glam rock and also an interest in progressive rock.[1] 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.[8] Aged 14, Kemp played guitar with Islington-based The Same Band and future Spandau Ballet session keyboard player Ian 'Jess' Bailey.[11]

The first band he formed with Alice Owen's schoolmates Steve Norman, John Keeble and Tony Hadley was called Roots[12] after Kemp and Norman saw the Sex Pistols perform at The Screen on the Green in August 1976.[13] The band changed its name to The Cut then became power pop group The Makers,[14] favourably reviewed by New Musical Express in Dec 1977.[15] Martin Kemp joined as bass player when they became Gentry in July 1978[16] before transforming into Spandau Ballet and playing live for the first time at Blitz on 5 December 1979.[17] 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."[18]

Spandau Ballet[edit]

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).[19] The success of this film was the death-knell for Spandau Ballet.[20]

Spandau Ballet played the final live show of their 10th anniversary tour at the Edinburgh Playhouse[21] 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.[22] 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. Although they were in their right, the claims were vigorously denied by Kemp; Hadley, Norman and Keeble subsequently lost their court case.[23] Although initially vowing to appeal the verdict, they later decided against this.[24]

After two decades apart the band reformed in 2009 with an announcement on HMS Belfast,[25] 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[26] 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[27][28] after Tony Hadley announced on social media that he had left the band.[29] Spandau Ballet 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 Wild tweeted: "I have formally quit the band Spandau Ballet."

Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets[edit]

Kemp is a longtime fan of Pink Floyd,[1] and in 2018 he was invited by the band's drummer Nick Mason to contribute guitar and vocals to Mason's psychedelic rock band Saucerful of Secrets, "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 at Dingwalls in London[30] playing a selection of Pink Floyd material predating 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 tour of the US and Canada was announced starting in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 12 March. This was followed by five additional UK shows set to run from April to May and another European tour in July the same year. Another European tour, the Echoes tour, set to begin in April 2020 was postponed to April 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[31][32] A second North American tour was postponed from January 2022 to September.[33]

Kemp also appears on the band's 2020 live album and film, Live at the Roundhouse.[34]

Other music projects[edit]

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.[35]

He released a solo album, Little Bruises, in 1995, on Sony Records produced by Bow Wow Wow member and Malcolm McLaren producer, Leigh Gorman. It was followed by a tour of the UK and Ireland.

Two of his songs appeared on the debut album by American soap star Jacob Young in 2001.[36]

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 W. B. Yeats and Maud Gonne.

He released a second solo studio album, INSOLO, in 2021 on Columbia Records produced and mixed by Gary Kemp and keyboards player Toby Chapman.


Kemp says his favourite guitar is his Gibson J-45 acoustic.[37]

Acting career[edit]

His first adult acting role was playing Ronald Kray in The Krays (1990), with his brother Martin playing Ronald's twin brother Reginald. For research he visited Kray in Broadmoor hospital.[38]

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 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, as well as Dog Eat Dog, Poppies and American Daylight. He has also had 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[39] 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[40] and appeared in two plays, Party Time/Celebration, from the Pinter at the Pinter season,[41] 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.[42] This was only released online.


In 2014, Kemp co-wrote and presented the documentary Kick Out the Jams for ITV's Perspectives[43] 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.[44]

He has presented various radio documentaries on David Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson[45] for BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6.

Podcast and radio[edit]

In 2020, Kemp started "Rockonteurs", a podcast hosted with Guy Pratt, who has played as a session bass player with many bands including Pink Floyd.[46] In each episode they interview a well known musician about their life and career.

On 1 August 2021, Kemp appeared on Johnnie Walker's BBC Radio 2 show Sounds of the 70s, choosing tracks which had inspired him, including David Bowie's cover of "See Emily Play" by Pink Floyd, "Debris" by Faces and "In The City" by the Jam. His final choice was "Come All Ye" by Fairport Convention, from their 1969 album Liege & Lief, which he described as "one of the greatest albums ever made."[47]

Personal life[edit]

Kemp was married to actress Sadie Frost. They married 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 Barber, with whom he has three sons: Milo Wolf (b. 2004), Kit (b. 2009), and Rex (b. 2012).[48] They live in London.

Kemp is a keen cyclist and mountain walker, and a collector of the furniture produced by Edward William Godwin.[49] In 2017, he nominated Godwin for BBC Radio 4's Great Lives show hosted by Matthew Parris.[50]

He became a trustee of the Theatres Trust in 2018.[51] He is also a supporter of Save the Children.[52]

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.[53] In 1986, Kemp 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.[54]

Kemp, raised in the Highbury area, is a lifelong Arsenal fan. [55]


Studio albums[edit]


  • "An Inexperienced Man" (1995), Columbia - UK #82[57]


Selected films and television include:


Kemp has released an autobiography:

  • Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  • He has also contributed articles to GQ, The Times[58] and the Evening Standard.


  1. ^ a b c Petridis, Alexis (20 September 2018). "Interstellar overdrive: Pink Floyd take Spandau Ballet on a psychedelic trip". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b Menefee, Lynne (2 May 2015). "Concert Review: Spandau Ballet at 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C." Maryland Theatre Guide. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Gary James Kemp – Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Results for England & Wales Births 1837–2006". Search. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  6. ^ Martin Kemp, True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp, p.12
  7. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  8. ^ a b c "Biography on the Gary Kemp official website". Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  9. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. pp. 31–35. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  10. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  11. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. pp. 65–68. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
  12. ^ Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. Orsam Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
  13. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  14. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  15. ^ Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. Orsam Books. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
  16. ^ Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. Orsam Books. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
  17. ^ Barrat, David (2018). New Romantics Who Never Were: The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet. Orsam Books. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-9570917-2-6.
  18. ^ Johnson, David (4 October 2009). "Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics". The Observer. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (21 August 2013), 'The Krays' Brothers Martin And Gary Kemp Find New Gangsters To Play In 'Assassin', retrieved 5 November 2015
  20. ^ Sloan, Billy (8 August 2009). "The past is no longer important as we look forward to fresh start, says Spandau Ballet's Gary Kemp". Daily Record.
  21. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  22. ^ "Spandau Ballet in court over royalties". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  23. ^ "Spandau court bid fails". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  24. ^ "Spandau three drop royalties appeal". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  25. ^ "Golden oldies Spandau Ballet to reform". Metro. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  26. ^ "Spandau Ballet's Soul Boys Of The Western World, film review: Band". The Independent. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "Spandau Ballet Debuts New Singer In London: 'This Is a Rebirth of the Band'". Billboard. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  29. ^ Pidd, Helen (3 July 2017). "Only when you leave: Tony Hadley quits Spandau Ballet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Munro, Scott (11 May 2020). "Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets announce rescheduled European tour". Prog Magazine. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  32. ^ Bailie, Geoff (19 April 2022). "Concert Review: Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets – Ulster Hall, Belfast – April 14th, 2022". The Prog Report. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  33. ^ Greene, Andy (21 March 2022). "Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets announces rescheduled Echoes tour dates". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  34. ^ Pincombe, Sean (26 March 2020). "Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets 'Live at the Roundhouse' release delayed until September 2020". Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  35. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. pp. 247–248. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
  36. ^ "Jacob Young Extends Beauty and the Beast Run to 8/20". 5 July 2006. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  37. ^ Millard, Rosie (29 April 2014). "My perfect weekend: Gary Kemp, musician and actor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  38. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much. Fourth Estate. pp. 260–263. ISBN 978-0-00-732330-2.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ "Gary Kemp on pop, Pre-Raphaelites, politics and playing Pinter". The Spectator. 15 December 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  42. ^ "Karma Magnet". Archived from the original on 23 January 2009.
  43. ^ "Perspectives Episode 2". Press Centre. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  44. ^ "Passions – S1 – Episode 3: Mick Ronson by Gary Kemp". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  45. ^ "BBC Radio 6 Music – Ziggy Played Guitar". BBC. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  46. ^ "THE ROCKONTEURS – A NEW PODCAST BY GARY KEMP & GUY PRATT". R o c k 'N' L o a d. 21 September 2020. Archived from the original on 7 May 2021. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  47. ^ "Sounds of the 70s with Johnnie Walker - Special Guest: Gary Kemp - BBC Sounds".
  48. ^ Mills, Simon (14 May 2009). "Gary Kemp: Personal tragedy revived Spandau Ballet". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 16 May 2009.
  49. ^ "Gary Kemp on EW Godwin, Series 42, Great Lives – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  50. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Great Lives, Series 42, Gary Kemp on EW Godwin". BBC. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  51. ^ "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.
  52. ^ "Join Holly Willoughby and Kate Moss on Christmas Jumper Day for Save the Children". Yorkshire Post. 1 December 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  53. ^ Millard, Rosie (23 March 2013). "Gary Kemp on David Bowie, Margaret Thatcher, and joining the establishment". The Spectator. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  54. ^ Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. Fourth Estate. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-00732330-2.
  55. ^ "Gary Kemp: Sing When You're Winning". FourFourTwo. 24 November 2002. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  56. ^ "Music Week" (PDF). p. 46. Retrieved 24 May 2024.
  57. ^ a b "GARY KEMP | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts.
  58. ^ Kemp, Gary (19 May 2012). "Gary Kemp: Ziggy Stardust changed my life". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 March 2019.

External links[edit]