Gary Kemp

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Gary Kemp
Kemp performing in October 2009
Background information
Birth name Gary James Kemp
Born (1959-10-16) 16 October 1959 (age 56)
Smithfield, London, England, UK
  • Singer-songwriter
  • actor
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • synthesiser
  • drums
  • piano
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts
Website Official website
Original Site
Notable instruments
Fender Telecaster
Fender Stratocaster

Gary James Kemp[1][2] (born 16 October 1959) is an English pop musician and actor who is the guitar player and chief songwriter for the 1980s new wave band Spandau Ballet. His brother, Martin Kemp, plays bass guitar in the band. Gary Kemp also provided backing vocals on many of the tracks to lead singer Tony Hadley.

Early life[edit]

Kemp was born of parents Eileen and Frank Kemp in St Bartholomew's Hospital,[3] Smithfield, London, and grew up in Islington, London, in a working class family. He attended Rotherfield Junior School and Dame Alice Owen's school in Potters Bar. He was active in the Anna Scher Children's Theatre drama club,[4] along with his brother, Martin. In 1968 he began appearing in TV and film, including a role in the 1972 film Hide & Seek, alongside Roy Dotrice.[4]

Kemp eventually decided to concentrate on a career in music,[4] and in the late 1970s, he formed a band called The Cut with school friends.[5] The band became The Makers and The Gentry, and was eventually renamed Spandau Ballet.[5]

Spandau Ballet[edit]

See also: Spandau Ballet

After recording Spandau Ballet's final album, Heart Like a Sky, 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).[6] The success of this film was the death-knell for Spandau Ballet.

In 1999, Hadley, Norman and Keeble attempted to sue Kemp for alleged unpaid royalties.[7] They claimed that an agreement had existed between Kemp 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, and Hadley, Norman and Keeble subsequently lost their court case.[8] Although initially vowing to appeal the verdict, they later decided against this.[9]

In 2004 Kemp made an attempt to reform Spandau Ballet. In early 2009, newspaper reports claimed that the band was set to reform later that year.[10][11][12] The rumours were confirmed by the band at a press conference held on board HMS Belfast in London on 25 March 2009. In 2012, Kemp's songwriting for Spandau Ballet was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection.[13]

Later career[edit]

Kemp released a solo album entitled Little Bruises in 1995, followed by a tour of the UK and Ireland. He has written songs with a number of other writers for other artists, although few of them have actually been recorded and released. Two of his songs appeared on the debut album by American soap star Jacob Young in 2001.[14] Since 1995, Kemp has continued acting, taking the role of 'Serge' in the West End production of Art in 2001, film roles in Dog Eat Dog, Poppies and American Daylight, and TV roles in Murder in Mind, Murder Investigation Team, and Casualty.

Kemp wrote music and additional lyrics with Guy Pratt for the musical production Bedbug, which was performed in a variety of venues during the Shell Connections Youth Drama Festival in 2004, and has written a musical, also with Pratt, entitled A Terrible Beauty, based on the life of W. B. Yeats and Maud Gonne.[15]

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.[16] This was only released on the internet.

On 28 March 2011, Kemp lent his support to the British Music Experience charity, by holding an "in conversation" session with an audience of 80 people.[17] During a 90-minute interview, he performed several songs acoustically, including "True" and "Gold". He also entertained questions from the audience, revealing that a couple of the songs he would like to have written himself were "Shipbuilding" and "Alison" by Elvis Costello.

Since 2012, Kemp has been the Chair of the 400th Anniversary Celebration Committee of his old school, Dame Alice Owen's.[18][19]

Personal life[edit]

Kemp was married to actress Sadie Frost with whom he had one son, Finlay Munro (born 1990). The couple divorced in 1995. In 2003 Kemp married costume designer Lauren Barber, with whom he has three sons, Milo Wolf, born in 2004, Kit, born in 2009, and Rex, born in 2012.[20]

Kemp is an atheist[21][22] and a staunch supporter of the Labour Party. He was a member of Red Wedge in the 1980s.[23]


Selected films include:


Kemp has released an autobiography:

  • Kemp, Gary (2009). I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-732330-1. 


  1. ^ "Gary James Kemp - Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Search. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Martin Kemp, True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp, p.12
  4. ^ a b c "Biography on the Gary Kemp official website". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Martin Kemp, True: the Autobiography of Martin Kemp, pp. 36-37
  6. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (21 August 2013), ‘The Krays’ Brothers Martin And Gary Kemp Find New Gangsters To Play In ‘Assassin’, retrieved 5 November 2015 
  7. ^ "Spandau Ballet in court over royalties". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Spandau court bid fails". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Spandau three drop royalties appeal". BBC. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Smart, Gordon (5 January 2009). "Is it act II of Spandau Ballet?". The Sun. Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  11. ^ Smart, Gordon (13 February 2009). "Spandau are Nou Romantics". The Sun. Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  12. ^ "Spandau Ballet to re-form 30 years on with hopes of 'doing a Take That'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "Gary Kemp 'Complete' With Ivor Novello Award". Contact Music. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Jacob Young Extends Beauty and the Beast Run to 8/20, 5 July 2006, retrieved 5 November 2015 
  15. ^ Gangs of Britain, retrieved 5 November 2015 
  16. ^ "Karma Magnet". Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. 
  17. ^ Jones, Dylan (12 March 2011), 'I’m going to stick my neck out and say that we were the best live British band of the Eighties': Gary Kemp on Spandau Ballet in their heyday, Daily Mail, retrieved 5 November 2015 
  18. ^ "Dame Alice Owen's School – Old Owenians". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Dame Alice Owen's School −2013". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  20. ^ Mills, Simon (14 May 2009). "Gary Kemp: Personal tragedy revived Spandau Ballet". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 16 May 2009. 
  21. ^ Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4, 25 December 2010
  22. ^ Ellen, Barbara (30 August 2009), "To cut a long story short...", The Observer, retrieved 25 December 2010 
  23. ^ "Who will the nation's popstars be voting for?". Virgin Media. Retrieved 2 September 2014.