TWO FIRST LADIES OF AUSTRALIAN SONG? WHY NOT?
It seems that the whole world is in overdrive these days. So much is happening all the time, and there never seems to be a moment for quiet reflection. The media bombards us with an endless cavalcade of events – disasters, tragedies, sporting triumphs, celebrity scandals – that demand our attention, and we’re so busy, and so preoccupied that we become almost oblivious to the passage of time.
It is some measure of how swiftly time passes these days, that an entire year has elapsed since we lost two of our nation’s most beloved ladies of popular music. Can you believe it? Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John died on August 5th and 8th 2022 respectively. Music lovers the world over, and especially here in their homeland, felt, and continue to feel the loss keenly.
The words ‘icon’, ‘national treasure’, ‘legend’ are at risk of becoming meaningless, or at least of losing their true meaning and power, through inappropriate usage and sheer over-use, just as words like ‘awesome’ and ‘absolutely’ have lost theirs.
But if any two women are deserving of these words to describe and characterise them, Judith and Olivia surely are. Both of their careers have spanned six decades. They have left us with a huge catalogue of wonderful, immensely listenable, heart-touching and inspiring music, that will endure as long as there are ears to hear and hearts to respond.
Judith Durham had an instantly identifiable voice, one that graced so many classic songs, from ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’, through ‘Morningtown Ride’, ‘The Carnival Is Over’, ‘Someday, One Day’, to ‘Georgy Girl’ and beyond. Her incredibly successful career as the voice and face of The Seekers, led on to a richly fulfilling career as a jazz singer and musician, on her own terms.
Olivia Newton-John’s career played out on a ‘wide-screen’ canvas. From her early days as part of the duo Pat and Olivia, with Pat Carroll, to working in the UK with Cliff Richard, becoming a regular and frequent presence in the singles charts – just think of ‘If Not For You’, ‘Banks of the Ohio’, ‘Let Me Be There’, ‘Have You Never Been Mellow’, to name just a few - to her phenomenal and global success as one of the stars of ‘Grease’ and ‘Xanadu’, and beyond, she, and Judith, both merited the conferring of the description ‘national treasure’ many, many years ago.
The eulogies and out-pourings of praise and acclamation that followed their passing were no more than what we had all known long before. We didn’t have to wait until they were gone to be reminded of how special and wonderful they were, and are. The inclusion of some of their songs in Oriana’s Beneath the Southern Cross: A Celebration of Australian Music is an acknowledgement of the importance of their contribution to Australian music. Long may their songs endure!
Beneath the Southern Cross: A Celebration of Australian Music will be performed at:
Trinity Centre, St. Rita’s College, Clayfield, Sunday August 13, 2.00 pm, and
Stella Maris School Hall, Maroochydore, Sunday August 20, 2.00 pm.
For bookings and information go to oriana.org.au