Mark Stewart, founding member and frontman of The Pop Group, has died at the age of 62, his record label has announced.
The singer died in the early hours of Friday, according to a statement released by Mute Records.
Stewart was described as a “dear friend, fellow agitator and creative force of nature” with a “hugely confident and dominating presence” that was coupled with a “warm and sensitive nature”.
The artist and political activist founded rock band The Pop Group in 1977 as a teenager in Bristol, along with John Waddington, Simon Underwood, Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith.
“Knowing Mark, working with him, laughing with him and thinking with him was like nothing else,” the statement from Mute read.
“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.
“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.”
The statement added that Stewart’s family has requested privacy at this time.
Inspired by dub and reggae, and propelled by political conviction and sonic experimentation, The Pop Group became an era-defining post-punk band and released their debut album, Y, in 1979.
After disbanding The Pop Group in the wake of a final performance at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) rally in 1980, Stewart went on to work closely with CND and launched a successful solo career which lasted the next three decades.
In 2010, The Pop Group reformed for a series of live performances, and recorded two studio albums.
Stewart’s last performance with the band was in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, at the invitation of Terry Hall for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021.
Tributes have been paid by music producers Daniel Miller and Adrian Sherwood, and bandmate Sager.
“Mark was the most amazing mind of my generation, RIP,” Sager wrote.
Sherwood, with whom Stewart had collaborated with on the 1983 album, Learning To Cope With Cowardice, described him as “the biggest musical influence on my life”.
“Thank you my brother. You were the biggest musical influence in my life and our extended family will miss you so so much. Love forever,” he said.
Trip-hop group Massive Attack, who hail from Bristol like Stewart, said the city would “never be the same”.
“Post punk pioneer and original chief rocker. RIP Mark Stewart Bristol will never be the same,” the band tweeted.