Happy Birthday to Martin John Kemp – born October 10, 1961!
Martin John Kemp is an English actor, musician and occasional television presenter, best known as the bassist in the new wave band Spandau Ballet and for his portrayal as Steve Owen from the BBC soap opera EastEnders. He is the younger brother of Gary Kemp, who is also a member of Spandau Ballet and an actor. Martin Kemp finished third in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012. In 2017, Kemp is taking on the role as a judge on the new BBC show, Let It Shine.
Martin Kemp was born to parents Frank and Eileen Kemp at their house in Islington, north London, and attended Rotherfield Junior School. At the age of 7 he began to attend the Anna Scher Children’s Theatre drama club with his brother Gary, and appeared in many TV shows, including Jackanory, The Tomorrow People and Dixon of Dock Green. In his last year with Anna Scher, he won a role in The Glittering Prizes, appearing alongside Tom Conti and Nigel Havers.
Kemp grew up in north London and attended Central Foundation Boys’ School on Cowper Street, Islington. Along with other famous ex-pupils, a large photo of him adorns a wall of fame at the school. After leaving school at 16, he began an apprenticeship in a print factory, but soon became disenchanted.
Kemp’s life changed when Steve Dagger, the manager of his brother Gary’s band the Gentry, suggested he should replace the band’s bass player. Kemp learned to play bass in three months and performed for the first time with the Gentry at a college party. Eventually the band was renamed “Spandau Ballet” and Kemp left his printing job to concentrate on the band full-time.
Spandau Ballet went on to have a great deal of success in the New Romantic Era, with four of their albums reaching the UK album chart top ten. True also gave the band their first UK number one album and single with the album’s title track. Kemp also performed with the band on the popular 1984 famine relief project song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. Because of a dispute over royalties, the band split up in the early 1990s.
After a 20-year hiatus, newspaper reports claimed early in 2009 that Spandau Ballet was set to reform later that year. This was confirmed by the band at a press conference held on board HMS Belfast on 25 March 2009. The band also announced a world tour, beginning with dates in the UK and Ireland in October 2009.
Kemp and his brother Gary returned to acting in 1990, both of them appearing in the British film The Krays, in which they played the notorious gangster twins Ronald and Reginald Kray. Their performances received a great deal of critical acclaim. After The Krays, Martin Kemp moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and made appearances in television series such as The Outer Limits and Highlander: The Series. He also appeared in several Hollywood films such as Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) and Embrace of the Vampire (1994).
In 1995 Kemp moved back to the United Kingdom and took a break from acting for a short while, recovering from removal of two benign brain tumours. He then resumed his acting career in 1998 when he made guest appearance in the ITV police drama series The Bill. He went on to become popular for his role as villain Steve Owen in the BBC’s top soap opera, EastEnders from December 1998. His character was involved in some of the soap’s highest rated storylines such as the Saskia Duncan murder and “Who Shot Phil?”. By the time he left the series in 2002, he was one of the best-known faces on British television. Kemp won three TV Quick Awards for Best Soap Actor (2000, 2001, 2002),] a National Television Award for Most Popular Actor (2000)] and five British Soap Awards (Villain of the Year in 2000, Best Actor in 2001 and 2002, and Sexiest Male in 2001 and 2002) for his work on EastEnders. In July 2001, he announced that he would leave EastEnders when his contract expired in April 2002.