The Sweet were one of the biggest bands to emerge from the glam-rock era of the early 1970s, riding the David Bowie-T. Rex wave and scoring hits, initially in the U.K., with borderline-bubblegum pop songs (“Ballroom Blitz,” “Little Willie,” “Wig Wam Bam”) written by the Mike Chapman-Nick Chinn songwriting and producing team, but later expanded their popularity to the U.S. with a string of self-penned hits like “Action,” “Fox on the Run” and “Love Is Like Oxygen.”
Priest joined the group, initially dubbed the Sweetshop in the late 1960s, solidifying around a lineup also including singer Brian Connolly, guitarist Andy Scott and drummer Mick Tucker, all of whom sang; the group became known for their high harmonies and scored their first hit with “Funny Funny” in 1971. A series of bubblegum songs followed until the group went whole hog into glam, with Priest in particular piling on the makeup and androgyny: “I looked like a 12-year-old girl,” he later told writer Simon Reynolds.
But after breaking through in the U.S. with “Little Willie,” the group embraced a harder sound best exemplified on 1974’s “Desolation Boulevard,” widely regarded as their strongest album. The hits continued — particularly with “Action” and “Love Is Like Oxygen” — but Connolly left in 1978 and although Priest was a strong lead singer, the group’s popularity tailed off and they disbanded in 1981.
Over the ensuing years the group would reunite in a series of competing lineups, some led by Priest and another by Scott, although the two eventually reconciled.
Priest is survived by his wife, music publicist Maureen O’Connor, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle and Maggie and three grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.