Record producer Steve Lillywhite has paid tribute to Darius Campbell Danesh, describing the late singer as a “gentleman” and saying his story was one of redemption.
The Scottish singer-songwriter and actor, whose family announced his death aged 41 on Tuesday, was known as Darius Danesh when he made his first bid for fame on ITV show Popstars in 2001.
He also appeared on the first series of Pop Idol, which was won by Will Young, and after coming third on the show, Campbell Danesh turned down Simon Cowell’s offer of a record deal and signed with music titan Lillywhite.
Lillywhite, 67, put U2 on the road to fame and has worked with some of the biggest names in music including the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band Beady Eye and many more.
In 2011 he was made a CBE and honoured for services to music.
Lillywhite told the PA news agency: “When I heard the news yesterday, it affected me a lot more than I thought it would. Because it took me back to the whole… I mean his story is such a great story of redemption.
“You know, how he was basically, he was ridiculed on Pop Idol, he ended up coming third.
“And there wasn’t a hell of a lot going on for him but what he had was this huge heart.”
A friend of Lillywhite’s, who was working with Campbell Danesh at the time, called him and suggested the two should meet.
Lillywhite said: “I met him and my first thought when I met him was, basically, he was a thoroughbred. He was like this incredible stallion.
“I mean, you know, tall, good-looking, he just reminded me of as good an example of the human race that you will ever find and it was fantastic.”
Campbell Danesh’s debut single, Colourblind, was released in July 2002 and went straight to number one, marking the start of a run of top 10 releases.
Since his death the song has re-entered music charts and on Wednesday morning was in top spot on the iTunes download chart.
Lillywhite said: “I listened to it again yesterday, and I have to say, it’s held up rather well.”
Campbell Danesh’s debut album, Dive In, was released near the end of 2002 and reached the Top 10 in the UK.
Lillywhite was behind many important new wave and post-punk records including the debut albums by Siouxsie And The Banshees and XTC.
His credits also include solo releases by Morrissey – having already worked on single Ask by The Smiths – and he worked with The Pogues and The La’s, and produced the Stones’ Dirty Work album.
Lillywhite said of Campbell Danesh: “He came out and and he wrote his own song and he signed to the anti-Simon Cowell, which was me in a way, because I was the guy who did the rock music and Simon Cowell was the guy who did all the pop music.
“I’ve only got nice things to say about him… talented, a big heart.”
Campbell Danesh’s family said in a statement he was “found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office”.
Local police confirmed there were “no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances”, with the cause of his death unknown at this stage, the family added.
Former Pop Idol judges Simon Cowell, Pete Waterman and the runner-up from the first series, Gareth Gates, also paid tribute to Campbell Danesh following the news.