British model and singer Nick Kamen, who appeared in the famous 1980s Levi’s launderette advert and was also considered a protege of Madonna, has died aged 59.
A friend of the family confirmed the news. It is understood the star, who was born in Essex, died on Tuesday night after a long illness.
Friend Boy George led the tributes on social media, sharing a photo of the pair together and saying: “RIP to the most beautiful and sweetest man Nick Kamen!”
Kamen, whose real name was Ivor Neville Kamen, was best known for his 1986 hit Each Time You Break My Heart, which was written by Madonna, and for I Promised Myself, in 1990 – as well as for stripping down to his boxers in the memorable 1985 Levi’s 501 commercial, soundtracked by Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through The Grapevine.
He first came to public attention when he appeared on the front of The Face magazine in 1984 wearing a ski hat, lipstick and aviator sunglasses.
But it was the advert the following year that became a cultural phenomenon and made its star a global sex symbol. It also saw sales of Levi’s rocket, “by a whopping 800%, according to some estimates,” the Levi Strauss website says in a post about the famous advert, published just last year.
“Dressed in a T-shirt and 501 jeans, model Nick Kamen immediately caught the eye and interest of everyone watching him onsite and onscreen,” the post said.
The plan was for Nick to inspire wannabe fans to dress the same – “and it worked”.
The Queen Of Pop got in touch and offered him Each Time You Break My Heart, which was originally set to feature on her third album, True Blue, and also sang backing vocals. The song charted at number five.
Second single, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever, a cover of the Four Tops’ 1966 hit, was less successful but reached number 16.
Susie Cave, former model and muse to British designers Vivienne Westwood, Bella Freud and Philip Treacy, was among those paying tribute on social media, sharing a photo of her “sweet friend”.
A tribute from Duran Duran, attributed to bassist John Taylor, described Kamen as “one of the loveliest and gentlest men I ever met”.