Australian music legend, Seekers singer dies aged 79

Alongside Guy were Keith Potger and fellow publicist Bruce Woodley, and soon Durham was a regular at their Monday night performances at a popular coffee lounge. Potger at the time was also an ABC radio producer, so during his lunch hour he made a demo tape of the band, which became the debut album, Presentation of the researchers – although Potger was not supposed to have a second job, so he did not appear on the record cover. Durham also recorded two other songs with the Jazz Preachers, muddy water and Frankie trombone (a version by Bessie Smith Trombie Cholly).

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Ready to see the world, in 1964 the band signed on to perform on the SS Fairsky to London. They had planned to return home after 10 weeks in Europe, but received so many bookings in England that they decided to stay.

In November 1964, the band released I will never find another you, and by February it was No. 1 in the UK and Australia, and the Seekers were on their way to stardom. Over the next few years, the band released the hit records A world of ours, Carnival is over and Morningtown Walk.

The Seekers’ biggest international seller was Georgy Girl (music by Dusty Springfield’s brother, Tom), which was originally the title track of the film starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and the single went to No. 1 in America.

In 1967, 200,000 people (about 10% of Melbourne’s population at the time) saw the Seekers perform at the Myer Music Bowl. It wasn’t until 2020 that a full recording of the set that day was released, and when the Hidden treasures record Durham, then 76, marvels at what is still the biggest concert in the southern hemisphere.

Keith Potger, Judith Durham, Athol Guy and Bruce Woodley during a promotional stunt for The Seekers.

“I was dry-mouthed, you get that nervous sometimes, plus there was no air conditioning and it was Melbourne summer, typical March weather,” Durham said. “I will never find another you had become number 1 worldwide and that was a big turning point for us, but we hadn’t yet had the huge reception from the Australian people. That’s what was so breathtaking when we brought this show to the bowl.

It was part of a series of great moments for the band in 1967 – The seekers below rated through the roof on television, and the members were named Australians of the Year (the only time in the history of the award that a band has had the title).

However, the following year, despite all her success with the Seekers, Durham decided she wanted something else and announced that she was leaving the band. She also decided, in 1968, to become a vegetarian, and subsequently lived a smoke-free, eco-friendly, decaffeinated, abstinent, drug-free, and cruelty-free life.

Judith Durham launched a successful solo career after leaving the Seekers in 1968.

Judith Durham launched a successful solo career after leaving the Seekers in 1968. Credit:Fairfax

The decision to leave the Seekers paid off, as offers for her to sing as a solo artist poured in and she asked London-based freelance musician Ron Edgeworth to be her musical director, pianist and arranger. . Edgeworth had worked with many big names and was in constant demand, but he signed with Durham.

His first solo album was For Christmas with Love, and she continued to tour, working in New Zealand and Australia, and was constantly in demand for UK tours and nightclubs. In 1969, she and Edgeworth married in Melbourne.

Durham continued to work around the world, singing anything and everything from folk and jazz to blues, gospel, ragtime and classical. In the 1970s she recorded traditional jazz albums with Edgeworth and released a piano and voice recording from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1978.

In the 1980s Durham and Edgeworth moved to the Sunshine Coast and she concentrated on writing and performing her own work. She and Ian Austin also wrote a musical, I must be rainbows.

The bad times came in the 1990s. In 1990 Durham, Edgeworth and their tour manager were in a car accident which killed the driver of the other car and left Durham with a fractured wrist and leg. However, she was never discouraged. In January 1993, as the Seekers’ silver jubilee approached, the band announced a reunion concert. It turned into a successful tour, but Edgeworth was later diagnosed with motor neurone disease and died in late 1994.

Much of 1994 was the publication of Durham’s authorized biography, The Colors of My Life: The Judith Durham Story, by Graham Simpson. It was popular enough to be updated and re-released in 1998 and 2003. In 1995, the Seekers were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame, and Durham was named Member of the Order of Australia for services to music.

After years without an album, in 1996 Durham released Mona Lisa. The following year it was published again as Still there featuring Bruce Woodley’s Durham solo recording I am Australian (with Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply and Mandawuy Yunupingu of Yothu Yindi).

For a few years around this time, Durham was stalked by an obsessed fan, who bombarded her with phone calls and faxes and began bogus legal action against her. In 1998, the stalker was finally convicted of harassment and ordered to stay away from Durham.

In 2000, Durham’s album let me find love has been reissued as Hold on to your dream, with additional recording of his song Australia land today. Durham toured Australia again in 2001, and in 2003 she toured the UK to mark her 60th birthday. A film of his anniversary concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London was released in 2004 as a DVD.

In 2006 Durham sang part of his song Seldom Melbourne leaves my mind in Melbourne, and was invited by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund to register it as a fundraiser. In the end, Durham recorded all his The sequel to Australian cities, which was released in October 2008 to benefit charity. The suite includes Sydney girl of my dreams, Good years I spent in Hobart and Australia land today.

Durham returned to the stage in 2012 with her 50th anniversary solo touring show, colors of my life, and his 1969 album gift of song has finally been released on CD.

Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, before winning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Australian Women In Music Awards in 2019.

Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, before winning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Australian Women In Music Awards in 2019.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Over the years Durham has performed with the Seekers, usually for charity, and in 2013 they reunited for a 50th anniversary tour. Celebrations to mark the anniversary included Australia Post presenting Durham with a 24-carat gold ‘stamp’ as part of the ‘Legends of Australian Music’ series, and the group’s portrait by Helen Edwards hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley, Judith Durham and Athol Guy reunited for the Seekers 50th anniversary celebrations.

Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley, Judith Durham and Athol Guy reunited for the Seekers 50th anniversary celebrations.Credit:Justin McManus

Then, after their first tour gig, at Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Durham complained of not feeling well and collapsed with a brain haemorrhage. The stroke affected her ability to read and write, and she spent months in rehabilitation, but she didn’t lose her singing voice, as she said age in 2019. “The doctor said, ‘Can you sing me a little song? and of course I sang Morningtown Walk.”

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