Songs of a Nation

How much grief can one country bear?

A bit over three weeks ago, we received the news that singer Archie Roach had died. Not only a member of First Nations people, Archie Roach was a voice for the Stolen Generation. Indigenous or not, the loss of “Uncle Archie” was felt keenly across the Australian community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that the following includes images of people who have died.

The song that so poignantly expressed the pain of the Stolen Generations.

Less than a week later, news came that Judith Durham, the elfin lead singer of The Seekers, had died. Another integral member of the history of Australian music lost to us.

A mere three days later, we learned that our beloved Livi – Olivia Newton-John – had succumbed to the Big C that she had beaten back in the 1990s. We were heartbroken but so grateful for her advocacy for cancer treatment and the establishment of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellbeing Centre in Melbourne. Yes, she had made a life in America but she would always be our Livi.

And so it seemed we had had our “Bad things come in threes” collection of three huge Australian music losses.

But then….

This morning we got the news that John Farnham, a favourite musical son, had been admitted to hospital for cancer surgery and treatment today. Oh, boy.

Reading the news this evening, it got worse, most particularly for this lover of singing. Farnham had been admitted for cancer of the mouth. In removing the lump from his mouth, part of his jaw had to be removed.

It’s hard to communicate what any surgery to do with the mouth or throat means to someone who loves to sing, let alone someone who has made their career from singing. I’m still traumatised by the news of Julie Andrews’ botched surgery for vocal nodes.

Wednesday is my music program day at my school. We made sure to sing You’re The Voice in Johnny’s honour. It’s a song I have long felt should be an anthem for young people campaigning for gun control in the USA. Just listen to the lyrics.

Please, no more losses in our Australian music community. Our hearts can’t possibly take it.

20 thoughts on “Songs of a Nation

  1. These things always seem to come at once – always makes me a little nervous when singers I have heard of, die. Don’t recollect John Farnham, but the song seems very familiar. Sorry to hear of his traumatic surgery.

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    • It was a shock to learn he had cancer but the news that it was in his mouth and he had to have part of his jaw removed just seemed so cruel.

      You’re The Voice is a bit of an anthem here. It stayed at number one for about 6 months when it came out.

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  2. Hideous news of John Farnham, whom I have really loved only since seeing “The Last Time” here in Melbourne live on TV. I had thought his voice would go on forever, I think. I sort of knew him back in ’69/’70 when I was working at a pop newspaper called “Go-Set !” and he would pop in to the office occasionally to say hello to his friend, Little G, who was front of house there and devoted to him; he was quiet and pretty shy, and a very nice young man. This sucks, big-time.

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  3. I heard about John Farnham’s surgery yesterday, but not that it was for cancer in his mouth — that’s just too cruel.
    And it did get worse! Margaret Urlich died on Monday. She was one of ours, but had lived and worked in Aus for a long time. She was my style idol in the late 80s and I loved her voice. I have such vivid memories of going to clubs in Auckland, dressed in my best imitation of her look and dancing to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxu0dM89Vm8

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  4. I don’t know Mr. Roach or Farnham, but the entire world knew Olivia Newton-John. We were all saddened at her passing. Her “Physical” video was so much fun, but I always read about what a wonderful person she was – very kind-hearted. It is a great loss, but fortunately her music will live on and perhaps for a future generation.

    Liked by 1 person

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