# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Mars Williams - 1955-2023

  by Lisa Torem

published: 5 / 12 / 2023

Mars Williams - 1955-2023

I initially interviewed Mars Williams on Chicago’s North Side at a popular, pedestrian mall, among the rancor of rambunctious toddlers and ravenous, cooing pigeons. Despite my insistence that I treat, Mars ran into a bakery and returned with steaming cups of coffee. Despite the pleasant weather, we had to regroup. The outside locale was too loud; my recording would be drowned out by the hustle and bustle if we stayed, so we decided to reconvene later at a club, where his free-style band, Liquid Soul, would appear. The clincher, though, was this: Mars would be multi-tasking. He wouldn’t be able to partake in a leisurely conversation. Nevertheless, I would see Mars in action. I was thrilled. So, on that then-misty evening, I literally followed Mars Williams from parking meter to parking meter and light post to light post. After inserting quarters into the meter, he sprinted from post to post, plastering flyers advertising the gig. Then, we breezed through the club, where he greeted fans and confirmed details with bouncers and bartenders. I was exhausted, having had the workout of a lifetime, but he still had to perform! I’d see Mars several times thereafter at iconic venues. Watching him was bliss. His face lit up; his lips grew moist in anticipation of the performance, like a young adult in the throes of love. With his gleaming saxophone, he could mimic the shriek of an elephant or morph into a Charlie Parker-groove without abandon. But I digress. It’s important to recognize why Mars was so loved. For one thing, he made Chicago his home, and never left us to soak in the West Coast sun or hob knob with New York intelligentsia. He was ours. Secondly, he had unlimited talent and an incessant desire to mentor and learn more. You can blame some of this on the gene pool; his dad was also a top instrumentalist. Mars started his musical career playing clarinet, but it was, with the saxophone, that he drank the stage. Mars and his bandmates built a substantial following with the experimental Liquid Soul. It was a band that defied description. With the new wave band, The Waitresses, he promoted the 1980s underground groove, ‘I Know What Boys Like.’ Mars was a beloved member of the lineup between 1980-1983. And concurrently, he joined the Psychedelic Furs from 1980-1983 and from 2005 until his recent death in 2023. I distinctly remember meeting the post-punkers by pure chance at a local pancake house years ago. I didn’t recognize who they were, at first, but they were obvious rockers, and out-of-place at that wainscoted, old-school diner. Richard Butler, donning an oversized faux fur, had little room in which to stretch his legs, when seated among his mates at the proverbial red vinyl booth. I was taken in by the scent of maple syrup, but overjoyed when Mars slipped me his email address and agreed to an interview in the surrounding neighborhood. That’s when my fascination started. Mars was the consummate musician. A hard-working hustler with a heart-of-gold. A man, for whom music, of any kind, resonated and received royal treatment. At one of Chicago’s premiere venues, The Metro, recently, fans, friends and former band, and family members congregated to celebrate his purposeful life. The beer flowed, the onstage musicians played their hearts out, and the onscreen visuals consolidated both the stragglers and the all-nighters. A flood of images captured the vibrant musician’s boyish smile, youthful spirit and immense love of camaraderie. Mars Williams was a one-of-a kind, wunderkind. The man you’d want to raise or bet your life on. In my mind, Mars plays the sanguine solos of ‘Sister Europe’ or ‘Love My Way’ and the incandescent melodies buoy his evergreen spirit.

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Mars Williams - 1955-2023

Mars Williams - 1955-2023

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Lisa Torem recollects meeting, interviewing and enjoying Chicago-based saxophonist Mars Williams’s music and endearing personality over the years.

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