Steve Mackey, longtime Pulp bassist, dies at 56

Steve Mackey performs onstage with Pulp at the Leeds Festival at Bramhall Park on August 28, 2011 in Leeds, England
(Image credit: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)

Steve Mackey, the longtime bassist for legendary British rock band Pulp, has died at the age of 56, the band confirmed today (March 2).

Mackey's wife, stylist Katie Grand, first announced the news on her Instagram page. No cause of death was given, though Grand said in the announcement that Mackey had spent the last three months in the hospital.

Mackey's Pulp bandmate, singer Jarvis Cocker, also shared the news on social media.

"Our beloved friend and bass player, Steve Mackey, passed away this morning," Cocker wrote on Instagram. "Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

"This photo [visible below] of Steve dates from when Pulp were on tour in South America in 2012," Cocker continued. "We had a day off and Steve suggested we go climbing in the Andes. So we did, and it was a completely magical experience. Far more magical than staring at the hotel room wall all day (which is probably what I’d have done otherwise). Steve made things happen, in his life and in the band.

"We’d very much like to think that he’s back in those mountains now, on the next stage of his adventure. Safe travels, Steve. We hope to catch up with you one day."

Born in Sheffield, England in 1966, Mackey picked up the bass in his teens, first cutting his teeth with local bands. After a move to London, Mackey joined the then-obscure Pulp, contributing first to the band's 1992 album, Separations.

With Mackey, and his dance-influenced low-end approach, on board, Pulp would find their footing, rising to the top tier of the Britpop movement with their hugely successful 1995 album, Different Class, and its seminal hit single, the era-defining Common People.

Mackey would remain the group's bassist until their first dissolution in 2002, and re-join the band during their early 2010s reunion. He was not, however, set to take part in the band's 2023 reunion tour, telling fans last year that he was sitting out the shows to focus on other projects.

Between his runs with Pulp, Mackey also found great success as a producer, co-producing Florence + the Machine’s blockbuster debut LP, Lungs, with additional work on – among a number of albums – Arcade Fire’s Everything Now, M.I.A's single, Galang, and Spiritualized's And Nothing Hurt

Noel Gallagher was among those to pay tribute to Mackey on social media in the wake of his passing. “Go safe Mackey lad," he wrote. "You were one of the good guys. Big Love. NGX.”

"We are incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Steve Mackey, legendary bassist of Pulp and established producer in his own right," wrote Rough Trade. "A camaraderie that translated into their brilliant music. Our thoughts are with the band, his family and friends. RIP Steve."

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.