William MacArthur MacKenzie (27 March 1957 – 22 January 1997) was a Scottish singer, with a high tenor voice. He was a member of The Associates.
Billy MacKenzie in concert, University of Dundee Student Union, Dundee. 1985
|Birth name||William MacArthur MacKenzie|
|Born||27 March 1957 |
|Died||22 January 1997 (aged 39) |
Auchterhouse, Angus, Scotland
|Genres||Post-punk, new wave, art pop, dream pop, alternative rock, synthpop|
|Labels||Nude Records, Fiction Records, Circa Records, One Little Indian, Warner Music Group|
|Associated acts||The Associates, British Electric Foundation|
MacKenzie was born and grew up in Dundee. As a youngster, he lived on Park Avenue in the Stobswell area of the city. He attended St Mary's Forebank Primary School and St Michael's Secondary School. He led a peripatetic lifestyle, decamping to New Zealand at the age of 16, and travelling across America aged 17. Here he married Chloe Dummar, the sister-in-law of his Aunt Veronica. While MacKenzie was quoted as saying the marriage was made to stave off deportation so that he could sing with the New Orleans Gospel Choir – calling his wife a 'Dolly Parton type' – Dummar still believes the pair were in love. He left her after three months of marriage and returned to Dundee, and the two never had contact again. Chloe Dummar filed for divorce in 1980, and MacKenzie did not contest the filing. Chloe's brother, Melvin Dummar, claimed to be the "one sixteenth" beneficiary of the estate of Howard Hughes, until the case was thrown out in 1978.
MacKenzie returned to Scotland where he met Alan Rankine and in 1976 formed the Ascorbic Ones. They changed the name to Mental Torture and finally Associates in 1979. Rankine left Associates in 1982, but MacKenzie continued to work under the name for several years until he began releasing material under his own name in the 1990s. Mackenzie also collaborated with many other artists during his career. In 1987, he wrote lyrics for two tracks on Yello's album One Second: "Moon on Ice", which he sang himself, and "The Rhythm Divine", which was sung by Shirley Bassey and was released as a single. A version sung by MacKenzie was released on the tape and CD versions of Associates' Popera compilation). MacKenzie also collaborated with B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) for their two albums Music of Quality and Distinction Volume I (1982) & Volume II (1991).
On 22 January 1997, depression and the death of his mother are believed to have contributed to Mackenzie's suicide. He overdosed on a combination of paracetamol and prescription medication in the garden shed of his father's house in Auchterhouse. He was 39 years old.
He was the subject of a biography by Tom Doyle, The Glamour Chase, in 1998.
The Cure song "Cut Here", written by Robert Smith, a friend of Mackenzie, is about the regret Robert felt about seeing Mackenzie a few weeks before his death backstage at a Cure concert, and not giving him any of his 'precious time' and fobbing him off. Siouxsie Sioux wrote the song "Say", revealing in the lyrics that they were going to meet just before his death. The song was released as a single by The Creatures in 1999, reaching No. 72 in the UK Singles Chart. For her Medúlla album, Björk considered singing a beyond the grave duet with Mackenzie using recordings given to her by his father, but eventually decided against it.
Between 9–27 June 2009, a play entitled Balgay Hill about the story of Mackenzie's life was showing at Dundee Repertory Theatre, in Mackenzie's home town. It tells the story of his life through the eyes of four fictional characters, and the title of the play derives from the name of the Dundee cemetery where the singer was buried.
The novel Spying on Strange Men by Carole Morin, contains the following section:
- ″I checked my face in the mirror, opened the book about Billy Mackenzie.
- One day at Billy′s house his dad brought in a cake and Billy said, 'That cake is like your aunty's hat.'
- 'That image kept replaying in my mind, another memory of something I didn't witness, as James came out of the bathroom.
- 'What are you reading?' he asked.
- 'A book,' I said, flicking to the end where Billy kills himself and goes to sleep for ever in the dog basket.″
Morin said in an interview: "I was devastated by his death which is odd because I didn't know him. My husband did. Mackenzie's death affected me in a way that Ian Curtis's didn't. Curtis seemed born to die. Mackenzie should have outgrown his gloom and become an eccentric old man. I think our work is similar. It's the duality of glamour and spirituality in his voice that attracts me. His toughness and fragility; darkness and laughter. He could be a character from one of my books. I always meant to send him a copy of Dead Glamorous." 
With the AssociatesEdit
† lyrics by Mackenzie ‡ also appear on Auchtermatic
(6 of MacKenzie's Yello tracks later released on the Essential Yello album) (1992)