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Steve Mackay, Sax Player for the Stooges, in Critical Condition

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From L to R: Scott Thurston, Steve Mackay, James Williamson, Scott Asheton and Mike Watt pose with Iggy Pop (Front) of The Stooges at the 25th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony  (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

UPDATE, Oct. 11, 2015: Steve Mackay has sadly passed away. A GoFundMe campaign to help Mackay’s family with hospital costs is still active here.

Steve Mackay, who played saxophone with the Stooges, the Violent Femmes and many other influential underground rock bands, was in critical condition in a Daly City hospital Tuesday after being checked in with a life-threatening infection.

Hospital officials say Mackay, 65, was taken to Seton Medical Center Monday evening to be treated for sepsis, a complication of an infection that can cause multiple organs to fail. Officials said that as of noon Tuesday, he was still in critical condition in the hospital’s ICU and surrounded by family members.

A Bay Area resident since 1976, Mackay first made a name for himself providing the screeching sax on Fun House, the second album from Iggy Pop’s proto-punk band the Stooges. Mackay would leave the band near the end of 1970 but would join the reformed group in 2003 and would play on albums The Weirdness (2007) and Ready To Die (2013). The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

“I had exchanged emails with Steve earlier in the year about his health, and he had been upbeat about his prognosis and was even going out on tour to China,” Stooges guitarist James Williamson wrote in an email. “We are so very sorry about this turn for the worst… Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve and Patti for the best possible outcome. Steve was always an important part of our band’s live sound and last year I worked with him again when he played on a couple of songs on my solo album. His expression was always unique;it was all his own.”


Of the five members of the Stooges that played on Fun House, only Mackay and Pop (born James Osterberg Jr.) are still living. Stooges bassist Dave Alexander died in 1975 at the age of 27; guitarist Ron Asheton died in 2009, a year before the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and drummer Scott Asheton died in 2014.

Over the decades since Fun House was released, Mackay would go on to play with the Violent Femmes, Snakefinger, Commander Cody, and many Bay Area-based bands.

“It was an honor to play with Steve,” said Grady Runyon, guitarist for Bay Area psychedelic rockers Liquorball, who Mackay played with multiple times. “He is one of the originators, in terms of bringing that approach to sax into rock ‘n’ roll. Also a very sweet guy. We’re all pulling for him!”

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