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Obituary: Stephen Gately

11 October 09 09:24 GMT

Stephen Gately, who has died at the age of 33, joined Boyzone in 1993 after answering an advert in Dublin to audition for a new boy band.

Manager Louis Walsh wanted to form an Irish version of Take That, and said Gately and fellow singer Ronan Keating immediately stood out in auditions of 150 young men.

The group found major success with a cover of The Osmonds' song Love Me for a Reason in 1994, which reached number two in the UK chart.

The craze for boy and girl bands was taking off and Boyzone's clean cut charm, along with a clever choice of classic love songs, helped them appeal across generations.

Further hits followed the following year, including a version of Cat Stevens' Father And Son and The Bee Gees' Words, and the band also enjoyed success with their own songs.

But at the end of the decade, they agreed to "take a break".

Around the same time, Gately decided to tell fans he was gay.

Much of the appeal of boy bands was built on sex appeal, and being homosexual was seen as a taboo.

"This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do but I owe it to our fans - as well as myself - to be completely honest," Gately said at the time. "I know this may come as a bombshell to our followers.

"Many of them may be upset. I only hope they understand how important it is for me to reveal that I am gay."

Gately said his Roman Catholic parents had accepted his sexual orientation four years earlier.

Born in the working class Sheriff Street area of Dublin, Gately said he realised that he was homosexual when he was 15 years old.

At the time of his announcement, he was in a relationship with Dutch performer Eloy de Jong.

Gately pursued a solo career after Boyzone split, but failed to reach the same heights and sunk into depression.

"I was depressed for three years when the group split," he said. "Even when I was doing my solo album, I didn't feel 100%.

"I missed the guys. It was weird being on your own in Asia promoting yourself and not having your buddies there. I had to get help. I was on anti-depressants for a couple of years."

The singer split from de Jong in 2002 and moved back to Dublin. Sir Elton John introduced him to internet businessman Andrew Cowles, and the pair became a couple.

Gately took to the West End stage, starring in musicals including Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and appeared on the ITV1 show Dancing on Ice.

In 2007, following the huge success of the Take That reunion, Boyzone also hit the comeback trail.

"We all decided to take a break but it lasted a lot longer than we thought," Gately said at the time.

"When we saw Take That do it so well I said to the boys, 'C'mon, let's do it again' because we could see how much fun they were having," said Gately.

Their first performance was for BBC's Children In Need that year and fans snapped up 250,000 tickets for 10 concerts on a UK tour last summer.

They went on the road again this year and a new Boyzone album had been scheduled for 2010.

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