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22 April 2023

Mark Stewart Of The Pop Group Dies At 62

Mark Stewart
Photo: Beezer/courtesy of Mute Records
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Mark Stewart, the vocalist and one of the founding members of the pioneering UK post-punk band the Pop Group, has died, according to a statement from his longtime label, Mute Records. No cause of death was given. Stewart was 62 years old.

Mark Stewart (28 April 1960-21 April 2023) founded The Pop Group in 1977 as a teenager in Bristol. Inspired by dub and reggae, propelled by political conviction and sonic experimentation, the era-defining post-punk band released their debut album, Y, that same year: one of the definitive albums of its time.

After disbanding The Pop Group in the wake of a final performance at a momentous CND rally in 1980, Stewart worked with CND and, fired up by the nascent hip hop scene he found in NY, he and dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood created the 1983 album, Learning To Cope With Cowardice, a powerful piece of radical devastation that still resonates today. His solo discography continued with 1985’s As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade and continued through the next two decades with releases up to 2012’s The Politics of Envy.

In 2010, The Pop Group, fired up by a renewed political dissolution, reformed for a series of incendiary live performances, and recorded two new studio albums. The band’s last performance with Stewart was in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, at the invitation of Terry Hall for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021.

The statement reads, “Mute is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend, fellow agitator and creative force of nature, Mark Stewart.

“We’ve worked with Mark since 1985, when Mute released his prescient album As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade, the beginning of a long creative partnership which, in recent years, lead to us having the great honour of re-releasing his first album with the Maffia, Learning to Cope with Cowardice, as well as one of the all-time greats, The Pop Group’s Y.

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“Knowing Mark, working with him, laughing with him and thinking with him was like nothing else. His hugely confident and dominating presence was coupled with a sensitive, warm, creative, curious, intelligent and hilarious nature – traits that were often hidden upon first meeting this towering tour de force – and as soon as that unmistakable twinkle in his eye appeared, there could be no doubt that he would be in your corner. He was always, vocally, on the side of the oppressed, and did all he could to ensure people were treated correctly. He questioned every single thing that was said and in his political beliefs and in support of others, Mark was not just looking out for the underdog, he was intent that everyone got a voice, everyone got a chance. Oppression is the enemy.

“Curious and questioning was a huge part of Mark’s personality and creativity, and whatever your beliefs, he’d question your opinion, prodding to make sure that not only he understood, but that you too understood the view you were upholding, and that there was no blind faith. There was no blind faith in Mark Stewart. When he was creating, musically and visually, he was always interested in ‘What would happen if we did this?’, there was never a predetermined vision and certainly never any ‘That’ll do’ attitude.

“Such an intelligent and thoughtful man: nothing was ever said or done without meaning, and a retort that may seem quick and flippant would have gone through a rigorous process within Mark’s mind – in fractions of a second what would take any other person time to process, would take Mark an instant.

“With such a unique interpretation on life, on everything, there really was no one like Mark Stewart.

“In honour of this original, fearless, sensitive, artistic and funny man, think for yourself and question everything!

“The world was changed because of Mark Stewart, it will never be the same without him.”

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