Steve Marriott (January 30, 1947 in Bow, London - April 20, 1991 in Essex) was a British rock and roll singer, songwriter and guitarist who also worked as a juvenile actor in his youth; he appeared in an early London stage production of Oliver! with Ian Carmichael, and featured in two British films in his early teens, including one starring Peter Sellers.
He is best remembered for his musical work in the groups The Small Faces from 1965 to 1969 and in Humble Pie from 1969 to 1975. Despite his small stature and slight build, Marriott possessed a thrilling and powerful voice; he was (and remains) widely admired as one of the best British rock and soul singers of his generation. He was also an accomplished songwriter.
The Small Faces, and especially Marriott, were one of many influences on the formation and musical style of premier British hard rock group Led Zeppelin. Marriott is also reputed to have been Jimmy Page's benchmark when selecting a lead singer for Led Zeppelin (the other being another rowdy-voiced Brit, Terry Reid), and there are unmistakeable stylistic and timbral similarities between the voices of Marriott and Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant. The legend goes that Marriott's crime-connected manager Don Arden threatened Page with broken fingers if he tried to steal Marriott away, leading to one of the great "what-ifs" of rock.
The Small Faces were one of Britain's most successful and popular groups of the late Sixties, and Marriott wrote or co-wrote (with bassist Ronnie Lane) almost all of the Small Faces' most successful songs including "All Or Nothing", "Itchycoo Park", "Lazy Sunday", and "Tin Soldier".
Marriott quit abruptly at the end of 1969, frustrated by the group's inability to break out of their teen-pop image and their failure to achieve major success in the lucrative American market. Their failure to break America in spite of "Itchycoo Park" being a massive hit during the Summer of Love was most likely due to their failure to tour there.
Shortly after leaving The Small Faces he formed a new band, Humble Pie with guitarist Peter Frampton (ex-The Herd), drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley (ex Spooky Tooth). After extensive rehearsals at Marriott's Essex home, they released their first album As Safe As Yesterday Is on Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label, and scored a UK Top 5 hit with "Natural Born Boogie". Humble Pie almost disbanded after their first American tour however â€”when they returned to England they discovered that Immediate had gone into liquidation.
It later transpired that much of the company's profits had been siphoned off by one of its senior executives and during their lifetimes neither Marriott nor Lane ever saw any of the royalty money owed to them by Immediate, despite the fact that their work was licensed extensively over the next thirty years, selling millions of units in total.
With the assistance of a lawyer who worked on a 'no win, no fee' basis, Small Faces drummer Kenny Jones and keyboard player Ian McLagan were finally able to secure ongoing royalty payments from Decca, beginning in 1991, and from Charly, the current owners of the Immediate catalogue, beginning in 1997. Tragically, neither Marriott nor Lane lived to benefit from this, and according to Jones there is still a substantial amount of money owing to the group from their music publishing rights.
Marriott also had a solo career after the breakup of Humble Pie, appeared on recordings by French pop singer Johnny Hallyday and New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders and wrote and recorded with Australian drummer and songwriter John Lee (ex The Dingoes). Marriott was heavily influenced by American soul music as well as The Beatles. He wore his influences on his sleeve, adding covers of many of his favorite songs to live sets throughout the years. Ray Charles was a particular favorite, with Humble Pie rendering "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "I Believe" to great success.
Marriott's dog Seamus made a notable appearance on the track of the same name on Pink Floyd's album Meddle. He can also be heard on the Small Faces song "The Universal", which Marriott recorded on a cassette player in his backyard. A recording similar to the song Seamus from Pink Floyd's Meddle appears on the band's video Live at Pompeii. However, the dog featured in the live recording was not the original Seamus. His vocal styling was reprised by a female Afghan Hound named Nobbs with a similar musical talent, and the title was altered accordingly to read 'Mademoiselle Nobbs'.
In the 1970s Marriott bought a large country house in Essex and in the 1980s it was used as the location for the home of the title character in the British television series Lovejoy starring Ian McShane.
Marriott died tragically in a house fire in his home on April 20, 1991. The accident was caused by his falling asleep while intoxicated and leaving a cigarette burning, after arriving home jet-lagged from an overseas trip. Just prior to his death, Marriott and Peter Frampton had begun writing songs together again, but the project was never completed.