Judith Durham, the Australian singer and singer of The Seekers, has died at the age of 79.
Durham released a number of solo albums, but was best known as the voice of the folk music group The Seekers, with whom she performed from 1963 to 1968, when she left to pursue a solo career.
The band quickly achieved worldwide success, selling over 50 million records, with a number of international hits including I’ll Never Find Another You, The Carnival is Over, A World of Our Own and Georgy Girl.
Durham died Friday night in palliative care after a short stay at 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, the statement said.
Seekers management team member Graham Simpson said: “This is a sad day for Judith’s family, her fellow Seekers, the Musicoast staff, the music industry and fans around the world, and for 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 were forever changed by the loss of “our dear lifelong friend and shining star”.
“Her struggle was intense and heroic, never complaining about her fate and fully accepting its outcome. Her beautiful musical legacy Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share,” they said.
Tributes flowed for the much-loved 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 Aussie artists,” he said on Twitter. “Her kindness will be missed by many, the hymns she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, paid tribute to Durham as someone who “gave more than one generation of Australians a voice through words of universal appeal, carried by melodies that, once heard, were captured in our memories”.
“Durham demonstrated song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach and move us all,” Dutton said in a statement. “Her language was uniquely Australian and her voice a gift of universal beauty.”
Art Secretary Tony Burke called Durham “an icon of our music”. “At one time, the best-known Australian voice was that of Judith Durham,” he wrote. “What a contribution. What a loss.”
The Victorian Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, said the Essendon-born musician “went to conquer the music world both here in Australia and abroad”. “With her unique voice and stage presence leading The Seekers, the band became one of Australia’s biggest chart-toppers.”
Durham received a number of awards during her 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 her first EP at the age of 19 and gained international fame after joining The Seekers. They split in 1968, a year after they jointly won the Australian of the Year award, but were reunited in the 1990s.
In 1969 Durham married British pianist and musical director Ron Edgeworth for a short period in the UK and Switzerland. The pair survived a car accident with their tour manager in 1990, in which Durham suffered injuries, including a broken wrist and leg.
The huge stream of fans encouraged Durham to reunite with other members of The Seekers for a Silver Jubilee Show, when Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neuron 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 latest album, a previously unreleased collection of songs titled So Much More, was released in 2018 to celebrate her 75th birthday.
– With Australian Associated Press