Stooges’ Steve Mackay 1949-2015 R.I.P.


Driving force behind 1970 classic album Fun House. Below, watch some equally classic clips, including a special one with Mike Watt and friends as well as other non-Stooges outings.

By Fred Mills

This past weekend, on Oct. 10, Stooges saxman – virtuoso yet primitive all at once – passed away from sepsis at the age of 66. The news that he had been battling the disease for a month came as a surprise and shock to longtime Stooges fans, and the outpouring of online love, particularly at his Facebook page, was profound. Likewise with his bandmates; Iggy Pop posted the following:

Message from Iggy on Steve Mackay’s passing:
“Steve was a classic ’60s American guy, full of generosity and love for anyone he met. Every time he put his sax to his lips and honked, he lightened my road and brightened the whole world. He was a credit to his group and his generation. To know him was to love him.

We’ve covered all things Stooges so frequently in the past that it almost seems redundant to cover old ground here about the band and McKay’s initial Fun House stint with the band as well as his subsequent role during its latterday revival. The Washington Post has a beautiful remembrance about the tenor saxophonist in which he is quoted as saying, of his initial forays into rock ‘n’ roll, “Nobody wanted a saxophone in the band. But I was the only one who could improvise and play solo, so they had to keep me.”

Indeed, Mackay had originally been with Detroit’s Carnal Kitchen and wound up with the Stooges for the Fun House sessions (of which the out of print box set can be streamed currently at Spotify should you so desire when you are needing your Mackay fix), subsequently touring with them for a few months in 1970. When they got back together in 2003 he was called back to active duty – you can see/hear him on the Live in Detroit DVD plus the albums Telluric Chaos, Raw Power: Live in the Hands of Fans, The Weirdness and Ready to Die. In between he worked with a host of artists, among them Snakefinger, Clubfoot Orchestra, Andre Williams, Smegma, Commander Cody and the Violent Femmes.

Steve 3

Speaking personally, Fun House is my favorite Stooges album and it’s also part of my own Top Ten Of All Time records – it’s no coincidence that when I finally got a CD player in the early ‘90s, the very first CD I purchased was… you guessed it.

Stooges bassist Mike Watt (you may have heard of him in the past…) offered a brief but moving email elegy for MacKay on Oct. 11, writing the following along with the photo above:

good people,

last night w/my missingmen I was doing “big train” up in the sierras
in a town called quincy about ten. I ain’t done that tune in a big

I’m at the ‘port now, soon to fly east and start a tour w/tav falco
and larry. just before leaving for here I found out we lost brother
steve around when I did that tune.

I don’t know what it all means. I’m just real tore up inside but know
I gotta work that bass the best I can for him.


(Top photo via McKay’s Facebook page.)

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