Judith Durham, Australian singer and vocalist for The Seekers, has died at the age of 79.
Durham released a number of solo albums but is best known as the voice of the folk band The Seekers, who performed with him from 1963 to 1968, when he left to pursue a solo career.
The band quickly skyrocketed to 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 palliative care on Friday evening after being briefly treated at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne, Universal Music Australia and Musicoast said in a statement.
His death was the result of complications from a longstanding chronic lung disease, the statement said.
Seekers management team member Graham Simpson 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 – say their lives have been changed forever by the loss of “our precious lifelong friend and shining star”.
“His struggles were intense and heroic, never complaining about his destiny and fully accepting his conclusions. His incredible musical legacy, Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share,” they said.
Tributes poured in for the beloved singer, with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, praising Durham as an “Australian national treasure and icon”.
“Judith Durham is voicing a new strand of our identity and helping pave the way for a new generation of Australian artists,” she said on Twitter. “His kindness will be missed by many, the national anthem he gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”
Opposition leader Peter Dutton paid tribute to Durham as someone who “gave a voice to more than a generation of Australians through universal words of appeal, brought to life by melodies that, once heard, become ingrained in our memories”.
“Durham demonstrated song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach, and move, all of us,” Dutton said in a statement. “Her language is distinctly Australian, and her voice is a universal gift of beauty.”
The arts minister, Tony Burke, called Durham an “icon of our music”. “Australia’s most famous voice is that of Judith Durham,” he wrote. “Amazing contribution. What a loss.”
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said the Essendon-born musician “continues to conquer the music scene both in Australia and abroad”. “With their unique voice and lead stage performances for The Seekers, the band has become one of the biggest chart-toppers in Australia.”
Durham received a number of awards over the course of his career including the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for music services in 1995, primarily as an entertainer and composer, and the Centenary Medal in 2003.
She was also named Victorian of the Year in 2015.
Born in Melbourne, Durham recorded his first EP at the age of 19 and rose to international prominence after joining The Seekers. They disbanded in 1968, a year after becoming recipients of the Australian of the Year award, but reunited in the 1990s.
In 1969, Durham married British pianist and music director Ron Edgeworth before stints in England and Switzerland. The couple survived a car accident with their touring manager in 1990 in which Durham suffered injuries including broken wrists and ankles.
The huge outpouring of fans prompted Durham to reunite with the other members of The Seekers for a Silver Jubilee Show, where Edgeworth was diagnosed with a motor nerve disease. He died four years later.
In 2013, Durham suffered a stroke that affected his ability to read and write, but not his singing. His latest album, a collection of previously unreleased tracks titled So Much More, was released in 2018 to celebrate his 75th birthday.
– With Australian Associated Press