Judith Durham, the lead singer of the legendary Australian band The Seekers, has died at the age of 79.
Athol Guy released a statement on behalf of the band and said, “Our lives are changed forever losing our treasured lifelong friend and shining star. Her struggle was intense and heroic – never complaining of her destiny and fully accepting its conclusion. Her magnificent musical legacy Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share.”
Universal Music released a statement saying Durham “passed away peacefully” in palliative care on Friday night following a brief stay in the Alfred Hospital.
Her death was a result of complications from a long-standing chronic lung disease, the record label said.
It released a statement from Durham’s “beloved” sister, Beverley Sheehan, who spoke of their closeness throughout life and shared love of music.
“Judith’s joy for life, her constant optimism, creativity and generosity of spirit were always an inspiration to me,” Sheehan said.
Durham’s nephew Tony Sheehan, speaking for his brother Ben and sister Belinda, said: “We have been blessed to share our lives with her.”
Music legends sold more than 50 million records
Durham joined the folk group in 1963 alongside Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, and together they released hits like ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ and ‘The Carnival Is Over’.
While huge in Australia, they also found success in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The group sold more than 50 million records.
They were joint recipients of the Australian of the Year award in 1967, but split up the following year when Durham left to pursue a solo career.
Twenty-eight years later in 1995, they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2014 they were honoured as Officers of the Order of Australia.
Durham married her musical director, British pianist Rob Edgeworth, in 1969.
In 1990, Durham, Edgeworth and their tour manager Peter Summers were in a car accident in Victoria. The driver of the other car died and Durham suffered a broken wrist and leg.
The fan response made Durham consider reuniting with The Seekers for a Silver Jubilee show. During the reunion, Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died in 1994, with Durham by his side.
Durham suffered a stroke in May 2013, during the Seekers’ Golden Jubilee tour. The stroke meant she could no longer read or write, but she eventually made progress in rebuilding those skills. The stroke did not affect her ability to sing.
In July 2015, Durham was named Victorian of the Year for her services to music and number of different charities.
Tributes for ‘a force of nature’
In a statement, Durham’s biographer and The Seekers management team member Graham Simpson said: “This is a sad day for Judith’s family, her fellow Seekers, the staff of Musicoast, the music industry and fans worldwide, and all of us who have been part of Judith’s life for so long.”
Universal Music Australia and New Zealand president George Ash said Durham was a force of nature.
“Great artists become part of our fabric and our extended family, and Judith Durham was no exception.
“She was a force of nature, constantly energised with a passion for music and life.
“We were all privileged to have known Judith and heard her heavenly voice. We are deeply saddened by her passing and will miss her dearly.”
Cyrus Meher-Homji, a senior vice president at Universal Music Australia and New Zealand, paid tribute to Durham’s “artistry” and told of discovering her brilliance when he was a child.
“How would a five-year-old understand the message and spirit of The Carnival Is Over? Perhaps not, but that is the age at which I first encountered Judith Durham and The Seekers, and I was entranced,” Meher-Homji said.
“In 2011, we at Universal Music Australia were lucky enough to sign Judith Durham to Decca Australia, at which time Judith wrote of her happiness, knowing that ‘the Universal/Decca family now also hold on to my dream and mission to uplift and bring happiness to music fans around the world’.
“High above, the dawn awaits you, Judith. Your artistry will forever be enshrined in our souls.”