Archie Roach, Judith Durham, Olivia Newton-John. All gone. It's a lot for any music fan to absorb in just a few weeks. And that, of course, was their strength. The songs they sang were mostly upbeat, always accentuating the positive. For some this may have seemed out of kilter with the times and yet now as we look back the music they offered seems absolutely appropriate. As the social experiment of the sixties continued, Britain found itself witnessing a mass exodus of young men and women leaving the regions and coming to London. They came in search of fun and all that swinging London offered.
I came across this item in today's ABC News. It is essentially an analysis of Judith Durham's career. It may be a bit long, but it raises some interesting propositions.
I am providing a plain text version here in case the link below is not available outside the source country. I hope it is available because it contains nice pictures and video material.
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Judith Durham needed The Seekers to shine just like Paul McCartney needed The Beatles
By Mark Bannerman
Curiously, their passing in such a short space of time has obscured the extent of the contribution each artist made and the reasons they touched us so profoundly.
In some ways Durham, like an overlooked second child, has been worst served.
Yes, we've been told she was born in Melbourne. Yes, we now know that she sewed her own stage clothes. And of course we we've been told time and time again about the purity of her bell-like voice. But strangely, in all of this, something has been lost or overlooked.
For all her gifts as a singer, Durham was not a solo artist. At least not when it mattered most.
This was a woman who fronted a band. That in itself was remarkable in the 1960s. That band was The Seekers and what a band it was. Fifty million records sold stands as testimony to that.
Alone, Durham would have been Paul McCartney without the Beatles. Happily, in the Seekers, she found her Xanadu.
To get some sense of the band's majesty and its revolutionary impact, just listen to the 12-string guitar intro to the song I'll Never Find Another You.
Recorded in 1964, the song took The Seekers to number one in Britain and number four in the United States and set them on a path to success.
Occasionally in life there are those voices that combine in a way that does not add up to the sum of their parts: one plus one does not make two, they make three. We heard it with Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. Then there's Crosby, Stills and Nash.
To bring the example closer to home, there's the sublime sound of the Finn Brothers singing together.
When Judith Durham sang alone she had a great voice. When she sang with The Seekers something truly astonishing happened. In such a setting, her voice took on a new character, cradled and ever so slightly tempered by the other three.
Sometimes, unless you listen closely, you'd hardly know they are there. But they were and it was the rough-hewn edge of Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy that kept Durham anchored. In the folk rock sound they pioneered there was no place for the pyrotechnics of jazz.
The voices, though, were only part of the play.
Ask a music critic about the band and there's a good chance they will tell you they're a little too middle-of-the-road to be taken seriously. But how the wolf hides in sheep's clothing.
Set aside the clean-cut image, the short hair and the sports jackets, concentrate on the music and there is revolution.
The Byrds made a career from the sound of the 12-string electric guitar. The Seekers took an acoustic 12-string and applied the same principles months before the Byrds released their breakthrough single Mr Tambourine Man.
The guitar, though, and the voices were just part of the mix. As Duke Ellington so famously put it, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing".
The Seekers could swing and for that, we can thank Athol Guy.
Standing to the side, with his dark rimmed glasses and stand-up bass he injected just the right amount of swing to lift the songs into the stratosphere. It was quality that Judith Durham understood. It spoke to her, and Georgy Girl is a classic example.
All of this, of course, pales into insignificance if you can't find the right material.
The third, and the absolutely crucial element of Judith and the band's greatness, were the songs they chose. They sang songs by many great writers but one name stands out.
His name is Tom Springfield. Brother of Dusty. Tom was in so many ways the fifth Seeker.
I'll Never Find Another You, World of Our Own, Georgy Girl and The Carnival is Over all came from his guitar and pen. All of them delivered The Seekers the ammunition they needed to take to take on The Beatles, the Stones and The Kinks.
Formed in 1962 as the sixties really started to take off, The Seekers were very much the metaphorical children of President John F Kennedy.
In 1964, with the world still coming to terms with his death, they began their recording career in Britain. The song they chose was I'll Never Find Another You. Filled with the hope and promise of a new generation, it might well have been written for the President himself:
There's a new world somewhere, they call the promised land
And I'll be there someday, if you would hold my hand.
Over the next four years the band delivered a series of songs that were a delicious hybrid of musical forms that defied categorisation.
As the music critic Ian McFarlane put it: "They were too pop to be considered strictly folk and too folk to be rock."
Tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment, the band recorded a song that told the story of a young woman struggling with the uncertainties of this new world. At its core the song rings with a note of sadness:
Hey there Georgy Girl swing down the street so fancy free,
Nobody you ever meet could see the loneliness there.
But in the way the best songwriters do, the music subverts that loneliness with its swinging beat.
Don't be so scared of changing and re-arranging yourself,
It's time for jumping down from the shelf.
In 1967 the group found itself back in Australia. At an outdoor concert at Myer Musical Bowl, 200,000 people turned out to see the band or, to put it another way, one-tenth of the entire city. At that concert the group played a song that seems now to fore-tell the end of the sixties and the dream it had offered.
It was called the Carnival is Over. Based on a Russian folk song with words penned by Tom Springfield, it reveals a very different quality to their early hits. In this song the author admits that love and joy may in fact be fleeting and that perhaps not everything is possible.
It would provide a fitting epitaph for the band and indeed and entire generation.
As 1967 turned into 1968, the dream of the sixties would start to unravel. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King would die at the hand of assassins. The Beatles would begin their long slow descent, while Charles Manson roamed the hills above Los Angeles seeking followers and choosing the people he would massacre.
The carnival was indeed over.
Judith Durham would begin a solo career.
Led by Keith Potger, The Seekers would rise again, this time called the New Seekers. Sadly, though, they would never quite manage to bottle the magic of the original group.
It's always interesting to reflect what might have been.
Without that band, the farewells for Judith Durham, you suspect, would have been very different. For all her considerable gifts it's doubtful her death would have led the news.
Cruelly, and I mean no disrespect, had she not been a Seeker it's possible we might simply have been mourning the passing of a talented jazz singer.
Durham's great gift was her ability, in the context of the group, to curb her considerable talent to find something far greater. To combine with three other musicians and one great songwriter to represent the rise of a dream and just as assuredly to chart its demise.
It was, if you think about it, quite a feat.
Archie Roach, Judith Durham, Olivia Newton-John. All gone. It's a lot for any music fan to absorb in just a few weeks.
And that, of course, was their strength. The songs they sang were mostly upbeat, always accentuating the positive. For some this may have seemed out of kilter with the times and yet now as we look back the music they offered seems absolutely appropriate.
As the social experiment of the sixties continued, Britain found itself witnessing a mass exodus of young men and women leaving the regions and coming to London. They came in search of fun and all that swinging London offered.