Judith Durham, the Australian songstress and lead singer of The Seekers, has died aged 79.
Durham released a number of solo albums, but was best known as the voice of the folk group The Seekers, with whom she performed from 1963 to 1968, when she left to pursue a solo career.
The band quickly rose to worldwide success, selling more than 50 million records with a string of international hits including I’ll Never Find Another You, The carnival is overA World of Our Own and Georgy Girl.
Durham died in palliative care on Friday night after a short stay at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne, Universal Music Australia and Musicoast said in a statement.
Her death was the result of complications from a long-term chronic lung disease, according to the statement.
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 a part of Judith’s life for so long.”
Her bandmates in The Seekers – Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy – said their lives had been changed forever by losing “our treasured lifelong friend and shining star”.
“Her struggle was intense and heroic, she never complained about her fate and fully accepted its conclusion. Her magnificent 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, hailing Durham as “a national treasure and an Australian icon”.
“Judith Durham gave voice to a new part 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 hailed Durham as someone who “gave voice to more than one generation of Australians through words of universal appeal, carried by melodies which, when heard, were fixed in our memories”.
“Durham demonstrated in 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.”
The arts minister, Tony Burke, called Durham “an icon of our music”. “Once the best-known Australian voice was Judith Durham’s,” he wrote. “What a contribution. What a loss.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Essendon-born musician “continued to take the music world by storm both here in Australia and overseas”. “With his unique voice and stage presence leading The Seekers, the band became one of Australia’s biggest chartbusters.”
Durham received a number of accolades during his career, including the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to music in 1995, particularly 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 achieved international fame after joining The Seekers. They disbanded in 1968, a year after they were joint recipients of the Australian of the Year award, but reunited in the 1990s.
In 1969, Durham married British pianist and musical director Ron Edgeworth before a brief stint in Britain and Switzerland. The pair survived a car crash with their tour manager in 1990, in which Durham sustained injuries including a broken wrist and leg.
The huge outpouring of fans prompted Durham to reunite with other members of The Seekers for a Silver Jubilee Show, at which point Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died four years later.
In 2013, Durham suffered a stroke that affected her ability to read and write, but not her singing. Her last album, a previously unreleased collection of songs titled So Much More, was released in 2018 to celebrate her 75th birthday.
– With the Australian Associated Press