Psychedelic Furs & Waitresses Saxophonist Mars Williams Dead At 68
Mars Williams, saxophonist for the Psychedelic Furs and the Waitresses, has died. The Chicago Tribune reports that Williams passed away today from ampullary cancer after being diagnosed almost a year ago. Psychedelic Furs posted about it on social media, saying they’re “heartbroken.” Williams was 68.
Williams, who was born in Evanston, IL, performed in the Chicago free jazz group NRG Ensemble and with the Waitresses (that’s his iconic lick on “Christmas Wrapping”) before joining PFurs in 1983. He left the band in 1989, but rejoined in 2005, playing with them most recently on their fall ‘23 tour. In Williams’ time away from the Furs he founded the pioneering acid jazz group Liquid Soul (who played Bill Clinton’s second inauguration) and other acts he played with over the years included Billy Idol, the Power Station, the Killers, Wayne Kramer, Witches & Devils, and Dirty Projectors.
Williams’ family has shared the statement below.
It’s with great sadness that we send this message to let the many people who loved and supported Mars Williams know that he passed away earlier today after his year-long struggle with cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends, both in person and around the world, who held him close, and loved him dearly.
Until the end, Mars’ inexhaustible humor and energy, and his love for music, pushed him forward. As it became clear in late summer that his treatment options were coming to an end, he chose to spend six weeks of the time he had left living as he had since he was a teenager – out on the road performing night after night. Those last performances with the Psychedelic Furs will live on with all of the other incredible contributions that Mars has made as a person, and as a musician, and that boundless energy will continue to inspire.
We’ll be working to plan a celebration of life fitting for someone who was a hero to so many. We’ll send out information about that when possible.
-Mars family & friends
A benefit show for Williams called Music For Mars is currently still scheduled for Chicago’s Metro on Nov. 25. Performers include Liquid Soul, the Joe Marcinek Band, and Jesse De La Peña, with special guests Richard Butler, Zachary Alford, and Rich Good of Psychedelic Furs; Jeff Coffin of Dave Matthews Band; Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses; and Ike Reilly.