Born in Devizes and a pupil of Dauntsey's School, May won a choral scholarship to Cambridge University, graduating with a degree in modern languages. While teaching languages and music at Kingston Grammar School, he co-wrote a musical named Smike with a colleague, history teacher Clive Barnett and songwriting partner, Roger Holman. Following the publicity Smike attracted, May was contacted by the BBC, who televised the play in 1973, starring Beryl Reid and Andrew Keir. It also featured DJ Neil Fox, a pupil at Kingston Grammar, as one of the schoolboys. The show has subsequently been staged many times by youth drama groups.
While working at ATV, he was asked to compose some music for Crossroads. Stephanie de Sykes got to number 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1974 with the subsequent "Born With a Smile on My Face", which was used within a storyline on the show. Kate Robbins performed another of May's songs for Crossroads: "More Than in Love," which was co-written by Barry Leng and got to number 2 in 1981.
May himself performed "The Summer of My Life", which reached number seven in the UK chart in October 1976. The song originally appeared in Crossroads, in a scene between Meg and Hugh. It was one of the best selling singles of the year, and was one of few songs to spend three weeks in a row at number seven in the UK Singles Chart. His follow-up single, "We'll Gather Lilacs - All My Loving (Medley)", flopped, reaching number 49 in May 1977. In 1986 he released an album called Simon's Way, which included his themes to EastEnders and Howards' Way, which peaked at #59 in the UK Albums Chart. In the same year his 'Holiday Suite' theme was used for the BBC Programme 'Holiday', and was released as a single. The theme has also been used by Video 125 for three of its railway drivers-eye-view productions.
He worked on his first feature film in 1988 - The Dawning. Music from the film, together with various other TV themes (including The Olympic Track and People like You) was released in 1989 on the Simon May Orchestra album Themes.
He co-produced Amii Stewart's "Knock on Wood", which reached number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1979.
Tony Holland and Julia Smith commissioned May to write the theme to EastEnders and being impressed by his work on spy-thriller Cold Warrior. Don Black put lyrics to the popular theme, and Anita Dobson (who portrayed Angie Watts in the show) reached number 4 in August 1986 with "Anyone Can Fall in Love". With Barry Rose, the theme was adapted into a hymn, "Glory Be", which was performed on Songs of Praise and released on single.
Another soap storyline gave May a hit in 1986. Nick Berry ("Wicksy") topped the charts with "Every Loser Wins", which he co-wrote after plugging it in EastEnders (a storyline which Holland openly hated). It won the Ivor Novello Award for best selling single of 1986.
In 1993 the theme itself was given an unpopular 'jazzy' update, and an updated version of the original was introduced in 1994. With Johnny Griggs, he wrote another set of lyrics for the EastEnders theme. "I'll Always Believe in You" featured lead vocals by Sharon Benson. which was based around the extended version of the 1993 theme. In 2009 he was asked to revamp the EastEnders theme again, to update the one running from 1994, making it lighter in tone and bringing back elements of the original theme missing in the previous version. However it is worth noting that one major element of all the previous themes (bar the jazzy version) is missing - the bells, which are mainly replaced with the piano.
Simon wrote "Peggy's Theme" for Barbara Windsor's exit episode from EastEnders screened on 10 September 2010. The single was released on iTunes on 4 September.
Lyrics were also added to May's theme to Howards' Way; Marti Webb reached number 13 with "Always There" in 1986, a year after the orchestral version of the theme (credited to May and Leslie Osborne) had reached number 21. This was the version played over the opening credits of all six series, and the second half of the closing credits of series 1. The first part of the theme was a faster, upbeat rendition (later extended and slightly updated for the season 3 credits) which merged into the more familiar version used in the opening credits. The Marti Webb version of the theme was only played over the closing credits of series 2, with an updated extended version of the first half of the original series 1 orchestral version, playing over new style credits from series 3 onwards.
He wrote lyrics for the final episode of Eldorado. Performed by Johnny Griggs, "When You Go Away" encapsulated how some felt about the axing of the show:"It was over before it had begun
And often love can go that way"
Mike Read wrote lyrics to May's Trainer theme. "More to Life" was performed by Cliff Richard. The theme won May his third TRIC award for Best TV Theme, after previous success with EastEnders and Howards' Way.
In 1994, New Vintage: The Best of Simon May, a compilation of some of May's work was released to coincide with his "A Night Away From The TV" UK tour. The tour was not a commercial success and some dates had to be cancelled. A Pebble Mill special documentary was produced by the BBC around this time discussing his career and the tour.
He has reached number one in Belgium with "Fragile Not Broken", sung by Natalia.
He is currently a part of "Music on Screen", along with Simon Lockyer and John Brant, and also works part-time as tutor at a special needs school in Surrey.
May recorded his latest album The Simon May Collection with his two co-writers/co-producers Simon Lockyer and John Brant. The album was released on 13 September 2010. "Peggy's Theme" was the lead track on the album.
In August 2015 Simon May released his first autobiography 'Doof Doof: My Life in Music' through Austin Macauley Publishers.The Dawning (1988)
HST West (1986)
HST Far West (1990)
HST Great West (1993)
Caught in the Act (2008)
House Husbands (2009)
Rip van Winkle
Smike [also dramatised for BBC television]