Model and singer Nick Kamen, real name Ivor Neville Kamen, has died. The Essex-born star rose to fame after appearing in an iconic 1985 Levi's ad. At this time, exact details surrounding his passing have not been revealed, though the BBC reports he passed away Tuesday night after a long illness. His death was confirmed by a family friend to the BBC, with Boy George, Kamen's friend, also confirming his passing in a tribute Wednesday morning, writing, "R.I.P to the most beautiful and sweetest man Nick Kamen!" Kamen was 59.
Born in Harlow, Essex, England in 1962, Kamen shot to stardom at just 18 after he appeared in a Levi's 501 commercial. Filmed in a launderette in 1985, the ad was soundtracked by Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and saw Kamen entering the launderette and stripping down to his boxer shorts to wash his t-shirt and jeans as other patrons look on. The ad instantly proved to be iconic, and it helped boost the company's denim sales and cement Kamen as a sex symbol.
In the years that followed, Kamen's career skyrocketed. After the ad debuted, it quickly caught the attention of queen of pop Madonna, who told the BBC at the time she had been fascinated by Kamen's "charisma" and "beautiful voice." She went on to have him record "Each Time You Break My Heart," a track she'd originally penned for her album True Blue but ultimately ended up not including, with her providing backup vocals, marking the first steps in Kamen's musical career.
According to the New York Post, "Each Time You Break My Heart" reached number five in the U.K. His follow-up track, "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever," then peaked at number 16 in the U.K. singles chart and reached number one in Italy. In total, Kamen released four albums between 1987 and 1992, including his 1988 sophomore album, Us, which was produced by Madonna's producer at the time, Patrick Leonard. On that album, Madonna sang backing vocals on the single, "Tell Me."
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Following Wednesday morning’s news of his passing, a number of tributes have poured in, with singer Tanita Tikaram remembering him as "kind & sweet [with] none of the ego of someone who had just set the world alight with his extraordinary beauty." Former Grange Hill actor Ricky Simmonds, meanwhile, said Kamen had "the aura and charisma of a superstar."