Mark Stewart of The Pop Group | Photo via Mute Records
The label didn’t offer a cause of death, but said Stewart “passed away in early hours of Friday 21 April 2023,” adding, “Mark’s family and friends respectfully ask to be given space at this difficult time.”
Stewart was hailed for his unabashed political stances, wildly innovative musical fusions of dub, jazz, post-punk and hip-hop, and helping elevate the musical profile of his native Bristol, U.K.
He was particularly influential among that city’s trip-hop scene, which spawned Massive Attack and Portishead. The latter’s Geoff Barrow remembered Stewart as “a great joke teller, agitator and modern day pirate,” adding, “I really do hope someone paints him on a wall as he’s a true Bristol legend.”
Adrian Sherwood, the renowned dub producer and founder of On-U Sound Records, called Stewart “the biggest musical influence in my life.” Massive Attack labeled him a “post-punk pioneer and original chief rocker.”
Stewart formed The Pop Group in Bristol in 1977 with schoolmates John Waddington and Simon Underwood, later adding Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith. They set out to start a funk group, they took inspiration in punk but found it too constrictive; instead they pulled from free jazz, dub and avante garde sounds.
The band’s wild debut single “She Is Beyond Good and Evil” came out in March 1979 and the band’s debut Y followed a month later. The Pop Group released a second album — the pointedly titled For How Much Longer Do we Tolerate Mass Murder? — in 1980, but split the following year.
Stewart continued to make music through the ’80s and ’90s, releasing a number of solo albums and collaborating with other artists. The Pop Group reunited in 2010 for a tour, and continued to work together on new music, releasing a third album, Citizen Zombie in 2015, and a fourth, Honeymoon on Mars, in 2016.
“His musical influence has been much greater than is often acknowledged,” Mute Records’ Daniel Miller wrote.
Below, see remembrances of Stewart from members of Cocteau Twins, A Certain Ratio, Living Colour and more.
Post punk pioneer
and original chief rocker.
RIP Mark Stewart
Bristol will never be the same.
— Massive Attack (@MassiveAttackUK) April 21, 2023
The Pop Group brought all new ideas into the punk landscape, ranting politics and abstraction of form. They inhabited/evoked dub without resorting to minstrelsy. Breathtaking musically, but Mark Stewart's delivery made them hard as nails. Requiescat. https://t.co/IoGOQBkYAe
— steve albini (@electricalWSOP) April 21, 2023
— Vernon Reid (@vurnt22) April 22, 2023
So sad to hear of the passing of Mark Stewart. The Pop group were a massive influence on us, and when I finally met him a few years ago he was a warm and gentle soul with a great sense of mischief and fun. My best wishes to his family and friends ❤️ pic.twitter.com/IFWXkngqrM
— jez kerr (@jez_kerr) April 21, 2023
Absolutely heartbroken to hear of the passing of one of the great musical heroes of my youth, Mark Stewart who continued to make challenging art till the bitter end. We worked together on a song last year for @LostHorizonssss which I dearly loved & hope to complete one day. RIP❤️ pic.twitter.com/DOmr5Qbmhq
— Simon Raymonde (@mrsimonraymonde) April 22, 2023
The Pop Group / She's beyond Good and Evil https://t.co/Q6yPUjxQRZ
Rest in peaces , Mark , Bye-Bye-Edwyn,
— Edwyn Collins (@EdwynCollins) April 22, 2023
Sad to hear about Mark Stewart going to another realm. When I heard this song for the first time I was floored. Still am. Rest kindred spirit 🔥 https://t.co/RnyifYlHxp
— Kid Congo Powers (@kidcongopowers) April 21, 2023
All of us at On-U Sound are devastated to learn of the passing of Mark Stewart. His importance and influence in the story of the label cannot be over-stated. He was there at the beginning, a close friend and musical collaborator with Adrian Sherwood from then until now. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/V7ksvOXiGR
— On-U Sound (@onusound) April 21, 2023
If you didn’t know who Mark Stewart was you should…
He was also a great joke teller agitator and modern day Pirate
He’s going to be missed I really do hope someone paints him on a wall as he’s a true Bristol legend https://t.co/aIogWbpmpc
— 🏴☠️ Geoff Barrow 🏴☠️ (@jetfury) April 22, 2023
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