Judith Durham, the great Australian singer and singer of the Seekers, died at the age of 79.
Durham released a number of solo albums, but was best known as the voice of the folk music group The Seekers, with whom she performed from 1963 until 1968, when she left to pursue a solo career.
The group quickly achieved worldwide success and sold over 50 million records, with a number of international hits including I’ll Never Find Another You, The Carnival is Over, A World of Our Own and Georgy Girl.
Durham died in hospice care on Friday evening after a brief stay at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Universal Music Australia and Musicoast said in a statement.
His death was the result of complications from a long-standing chronic lung disease, according to the statement.
Graham Simpson, a member of the Seekers management team, said: “This is a sad day for Judith’s family, fellow Seekers, Musicoast staff, the music industry and fans around the world. , and all of us who have been a part of Judith’s life for so long.”
His bandmates in the Seekers – Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy – said their lives had been changed forever by losing “our precious lifelong friend and our shining star”.
“His fight was intense and heroic, never complaining about his fate and fully accepting its conclusion. His wonderful musical legacy, Keith, Bruce and I are so lucky to share it,” they said.
Tributes poured in for the beloved singer, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailing Durham as “a national treasure and an Australian icon”.
“Judith Durham gave voice to a new strand of our identity and helped pave the way for a new generation of Australian artists,” he said on Twitter. “Her kindness will be missed by many, the anthems she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton paid tribute to Durham as someone who “gave voice to more than a generation of Australians through words of universal appeal, carried by melodies which, a times heard, have become fixed in our memories”.
“Durham has demonstrated song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach and move each of us,” Dutton said in a statement. “Her language was uniquely Australian and her voice a gift of universal beauty.”
Arts Minister Tony Burke called Durham “an icon of our music”. “Once the best-known Australian voice was that of Judith Durham,” he writes. “What a contribution. What a loss.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Essendon-born musician “has gone on to conquer the world of music here in Australia and overseas”. “With their unique vocals and stage presence leading the Seekers, the band have become one of the biggest names on the Australian charts.”
Durham has received a number of honors during her career, including the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to music in 1995, particularly as a performer and composer, and the Medal of centenary in 2003.
She was also named Victorian of the Year in 2015.
Born in Melbourne, Durham recorded her first EP aged 19 and rose to international fame after joining the Seekers. They disbanded in 1968, a year after becoming co-winners of the Australian of the Year award, but reunited in the 1990s.
In 1969 Durham married British pianist and music manager Ron Edgeworth before a brief stint in the UK and Switzerland. The couple survived a car crash with their tour manager in 1990 in which Durham suffered injuries including a broken wrist and leg.
The huge outpouring of fans encouraged Durham to reunite with other Seekers members for a Silver Jubilee Show, at which time Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died four years later.
In 2013, Durham suffered a stroke which impacted her ability to read and write, but not her singing. Her latest album, a collection of unreleased songs titled So Much More, was released in 2018 to celebrate her 75th birthday.
– With Australian Associated Press