Steve Marriott, 44, songwriter whose group Small Faces was one of the top British rockbands of the 1960s, died April 20 in a fire that swept his cottage in the village of Arkeston, northeast of London. Officials said a lit cigaret probably caused the blaze.

Marriott started as a child actor at age 12 and, like Phil Collins, played the Artful Dodger in the original London production of the musical “Oliver!” His first rock group was billed Steve Marriott’s Moments. Other similarly short-lived groups he fronted were Marriott’s Allstars and Steve Marriott’s Packet of Three.

But it was the Small Faces that secured Marriott’s place in rock history. With he and bassist Ronnie Lane writing most of the material, group recorded a string of hit singles including “Itchycoo Park,” “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” and “Sha La La La Lee.” Band identified with and symbolized England’s “mod” subculture of the ’60s, whose emblems included motor scooters and Italian suits. Better known mod figures were “faces,” and Small Faces was so named because its members were all on the short side.

Group’s 1968 album “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” was generally conceded to be the band’s best, with an intricate fold-out sleeve and some humorously odd narration on side two. That success was overshadowed by the “Itchycoo Park” single, however. Originally intended as a parody of Scott McKenzie’s hippy ode “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” it went on to become the Small Faces’ only substantial U.S. hit and remains one of the best examples of late ’60s British psychedelia.

Marriott split from the group in the late ’60s. Later, he and Peter Frampton formed Humble Pie.

Original Small Faces (minus Lane, who continues to suffer from multiple sclerosis) eventually regrouped in the mid-’70s after successful reissues of “Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday,” though the result was a handful of minor albums.

In recent years, Marriott spent most of his time in the U.S., where he and Frampton had some recent recording sessions. Marriott’s last album, released in 1989, was “30 Seconds To Midnight.”

Survived by his wife, Toni.

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