Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Judith Durham

Judith Durham is a music person.

I usually don't like researching music people, but I don't mind Durham so much because she was part of the Seekers. This post will give me an excuse to listen to one of my favorite songs...."I am Australian".

A few weeks ago, I read Catherine Jink's antidote to the Twilight series. She describes the main character as having Judith Durham hair. I thought that was funny.

Anyway, I guess I shall start my research.

Lord Wiki says that baby Judith was born on 3 July 1943 in a suburb of Melbourne called Essendon. Her father did flight type work in World War II.

At some point, the family moved to Hobart Tasmania. There she attended the Fahan School. That's an interesting name. It sounds almost Middle Eastern...at least to me. Lord Wiki says it's Irish. Yeah. It does sound Irish too.

It's an all girls school.

When Durham was about thirteen, her family moved back to Melbourne. There she attended Ruyton Girl's School.

After all that, Durham went to RMIT which stands for Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Hamish Blake and Rove McManus went there, so I should have mentioned this school in previous posts. I have no memory of doing so. Oops.

Durham planned to be a pianist. She did piano learning at the University of Melbourne. Did she end up switching schools, or did she still do work at RMIT?

When she was eighteen, she had her first singing gig. She asked a guy from the university if she could sing with his jazz band.

By 1963, she was singing at a club. She gave herself a stage name. She used Durham which was her mother's maiden name. I think it's cool when people help resurrect matriarchal names.

Later that year, Durham also recorded a record. It was called Judy Durham with Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers.

She had some success, but not enough to quit her day job. Durham worked for an advertising agency, where she met an account executive named Athol Guy. Athol Guy was into music himself. He was one of the Seekers!

Durham joined the Seekers.

The group was offered passage to the UK via a cruise ship called Fairsky. They would just need to provide on-board entertainment. That sounds like a good deal to me.

The Seekers had planned to return to Australia a few weeks later...via the same ship. But they were offered work in the UK. During their UK time, they produced some hit singles.

One song was I'll Never Find Another You. It did very well in Australia, the UK, and the United States. Another song that did well was The Carnival is Over. I think I've written about both of these songs before.

In 1966, The Seekers returned to Australia. They returned as very famous and successful people.

They did a concert Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. Okay, that's weird that there's a venue in Melbourne called Sidney....even though it's spelled differently. Lord Wiki says it wasn't named after Sydney the city. It was named after a rich philanthropist.

Well, anyway The Seekers did a show there, and it ended up being in The Guinness Book of World Records for the largest concert crowd gathered in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Seekers also did a very successful television program called The Seekers at Home and Down Under. Wasn't down under their home? Or did they now consider the UK to be their home. Or did the title mean that down under WAS their home?

YouTube has a clip from the program.

In July 1968, Durham announced she was leaving the Seekers to pursue a solo career. Was that a good choice, or a mistake? Some people leave to seek better things, and they find them. Other people come crawling back.

On Days of our Lives, almost every actor who has left to further their career has eventually returned.

I do know Durham eventually returned to The Seekers. Did she do that because her solo career flopped, or did she just decide that she missed them?

Well, it sounds like she did fairly well, but not great. She did six albums. It doesn't look like any of them did exceptionally well. Lord Wiki doesn't mention any hit singles.

I'm not sure why, but then Durham retired to Queensland. She wrote songs every now and then; but it seems like she pretty much vanished from the music world.

In 1994, she got back into it all again. She would have been about fifty-one by then. I like hearing stories of people doing exciting successful things during the later decades of their life. It was at this time, that she did a version of I am Australian with the Air Supply Guy. This is the third time I'll be listening to this song today.

No wait. I was confused with what Lord Wiki said. They released this song in 1998.

Later, she wrote and released a song called Australia Land of Today. This is the first time I've heard it. I can't say that I'm overly impressed. Maybe it will grow on me.

I have to admit I'm skipping some of her music stuff. I'm kind of just writing about stuff that interests me. I might listen to more stuff on YouTube later.

One thing that I like was pointed out to me in comments....probably when I did the Bruce Woodley post. It's a new and improved version of Advance Australia Fair.

No wait. This was not the song that someone pointed out to me. Now I remember. The person pointed out the version by Adam Hill which is NOT to be confused with the Adam Hills version.

Shit. This gets confusing.

Lord Wiki has some personal life stuff for Durham. In 1969 she married a British pianist. According to this section, she didn't immediately retire to Queensland. She and her hubby spent time in the UK and Switzerland. It was the mid 1980's when they moved to Nambour Queensland.

In 1990, Durham, her husband, and their tour manager were in a bad car accident. The driver died. Durham fortunately escaped with minor injuries.

Speaking of accidents...my parents recently had a gruesome one at their home. They have an elevator in their house. Yeah. Don't ask me why. An elevator repairman was there, and he fell down two stories. My dad told us the news, and my sisters and I all thought the elevator had fallen. I immediately told Jack that he was never again to go in the elevator. Later we found out the elevator hadn't fallen. The guy had somehow slipped. He had a very bad fall. Fortunately, he didn't die, sustain a head injury, or have internal injuries. He just smashed up his knee. It's bad, but it could have been MUCH worse. One of my sister's....or maybe Tim...said that he's lucky he had the accident at my parent's house, and not some tall building.

Yuck. That whole story totally freaks me out. I hate the idea of seeing someone fall.

Back to Durham and her accident. She got a lot of attention from her fans. Lord Wiki says this might have inspired her to return to the whole music business. I guess she returned first by doing a reunion show with the Seekers. But then her husband was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. He died in 1994. That's about the time that Durham got back into the whole thing. Maybe she did it to honor him. Or maybe she needed to keep herself busy after he died.

In the 1990's, Durham also experienced the whole stalker phenomenon. She was stalked by her personal assistant. The stalker sent her doormats through the post. That's....different.

All right. That's it for Lord Wiki.

Here's Durham's official site. The site plays a lovely happy song. I'm not sure what it's called.

This is interesting. There's a section on the site for people interested in singing her lyrics to "Advance Australia Fair". She says it's fine, but regular licensing stuff applies if the song is sung at an event where people are charged to attend. That's not strange. But the site also says, The new lyric should never be sung as part of or in place of the official National Anthem at any event.

Why does it say that? I thought the purpose of the song was to have a more inclusive National Anthem. Why would she not want it sung? Or is there some kind of law about the National Anthem?

I can't really link to stuff within the site, by the way. I'm not being lazy here. It's just that type of website.

Anyway, Durham is writing a book. It's about her struggle with a lung disease called bronchiectasis. Lord Wiki says it involves dilation of the bronchial tree. It happens sometimes in Cystic Fibrosis. I didn't know that.

Her website links to the Motor Neurone Disease Association. She has kept involved with that.

Her site has it's own biography.

Her first professional engagement was playing piano for a ballet recital.

The Seekers were the first Australians to hit the number one spot in the United States. I guess that refers to number one single?

She didn't just leave the Seekers to pursue a career. She also wanted to find a husband. Interesting.

Lucky for her....she found him.

During their time in Queensland, Durham wrote a full musical. It was called Gotta Be Rainbows. I'm not sure it ever had any success.

Durham does Ragtime music. I have an idea of what Ragtime music is, but I'm not exactly sure.

Lord Wiki says it's an American music genre that was popular from 1897 to 1917. It was replaced by Jazz.

I've seen the musical Ragtime. I liked it. I'm sure it featured ragtime music, so maybe I should assume I like that type of music.

Durham is vegetarian, and has been that way since 1968. That's pretty impressive. She also abstains from smoking and alcohol.

I'm going to watch YouTube stuff now. I think there's some interviews.

Oh wow. This interview was done back in the 1980's. This might be interesting.....

Durham was sought out for the interview because the Seekers had formed up again without her. I guess people wondered where she was, and why she wasn't seeking.

The interviewers label Durham as a recluse. They say she won't tell people where she lives, and she won't answer the phone. Really? That's a recluse? I would call it a-former-celebrity-who-doesn't-want-to-be-harassed. It sounds normal to me.

In the interview, it's said that she would never return to the Seekers. I guess she changed her mind about that.

Here's a much more recent interview. It's from June 2009.

She talks about leaving the group, and says she felt there were other things she needed to do. She says she hadn't expected it to cause so much grief, and she now wishes she had broke the news more gently.

Durham talks about her health. The interviewer points out that she still sings very good. Durham says she has to carefully watch her diet, and get a good nights sleep.

They talk about the lyrics to her version of "Advance Australia Fair". She talks about some of the original lyrics, and which ones bother her. She says she has issues with we are young and free. She points out that Australia is NOT young. It has the oldest living culture. Just its white culture is young.

Durham says her song has been well-received by Indigenous-Australians, but this wasn't her main intent on writing the song. She just wanted a modernized version. But she is glad that the song is liked by some of the Indigenous people.

Anyway, I'm not really sure what to write about next. So I'm just going to be lazy and quit.

If you're interested in reading more of my Aussie biography posts, go here to see a list of them!


  1. My Dad is a folk musician and he hated the Seekers. I think sometimes your parents tastes become you're own, because I still cringe when I hear the Seekers and Don McLean, but love me some Garfunkle and Steeleye Span.

    I didn't know she lived in Nambour. The only thing I personally know about Nambour is that they don't have a great hospital to have your baby in.

  2. Amy Michelle,

    Cool about your dad being a folk musician! Did you guys sing a lot as a family? Do you sing at all?

    I don't really remember hearing the Seekers as a child. It's not like we all sat around singing "I Am Australian". No, I'm joking. But I don't remember hearing their other stuff either. I do remember some stuff from my teen years, but not really from my parents.

    We did do some Don McLean! I've never heard of Steeleye Span. I'll have to look him up.

    In my childhood, it was Peter Paul & Mary and John Denver...at least in terms of folk music.

    I like Garfunkle. He guest-starred on one of our favorite TV shows. "Arthur".


    I cry every time I watch it.

  3. The Seekers were better than everyone, even the Beatles. Judith is the best female vocalist in history not named Ella.

  4. Mike,

    Your Seeker love is very strong!