After a long battle with illness, Judith Durham, the former lead singer of The Seekers and one of Australia’s most prolific performers, died at the age of 79.
Durham, AO, died on Friday evening in a Melbourne hospital, Universal Music confirmed in a statement. “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 part of Judith’s life for so long,” Durham’s biographer and The Seekers management team member Graham Simpson said.
Durham was admitted to palliative care on Friday, August 5, and died peacefully in the evening after complications from a long-standing chronic lung disease, according to the statement.
Durham’s sister, Beverley Sheehan, said they were close throughout their lives, including through their love of music.
“Judith’s joy for life, her constant optimism, creativity, and generosity of spirit were always an inspiration to me,” Sheehan said.
“We have been blessed to share our lives with her,” Durham’s nephew Tony Sheehan said on behalf of his brother Ben and sister Belinda.
On behalf of fellow founding members of The Seekers Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, Athol Guy said their lives had been forever changed by the loss of Durham, a “treasured lifelong friend and shining star.”
“Her struggle was intense and heroic; she never complained about her fate and fully accepted its outcome.” Keith, Bruce, and I are so fortunate to be able to share her magnificent musical legacy,” Guy said. Durham joined The Seekers as lead singer in the early 1960s, and their 1964 single I’ll Never Find Another You reached number one in Australia and the United Kingdom.
At its peak, their 1965 hit The Carnival is Over sold more than 90,000 copies per day. In 1967, the members of the band were named Australians of the Year.
The Seekers’ performance at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in 1967, attended by an estimated 200,000 people, was inscribed in the Guinness Book of Records the following year as the largest concert attendance in the southern hemisphere. Durham left the band to pursue a solo career, releasing albums such as For Christmas with Love, Gift of Song, and Climb Ev’ry Mountain. Durham was described as a “force of nature” by George Ash, president of Universal Music Australia. “Great artists become woven into our fabric, and Judith Durham was no exception,” Ash said.
“She was a force of nature, bursting with energy and a love of music and life.” We were all fortunate to have known Judith and heard her divine voice. We are devastated by her death and will miss her greatly.”
Durham’s family had requested privacy at this time, according to the statement, which thanked the doctors and nurses at The Alfred hospital for “outstanding care and compassion.” On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Durham, calling him a “national treasure and an Australian icon.”
“Her kindness will be missed by many, and the anthems she wrote for our country will not be forgotten,” he said.
Durham, according to federal opposition leader Peter Dutton, has given voice to more than one generation of Australians. “Durham demonstrated in song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach and move each of us,” said Dutton. Premier Daniel Andrews praised Durham, who was named Victorian of the Year in 2015 for her contributions to music and charity work, as well as her influence on the Australian and international music scenes.
“Not only will her numerous hit songs live on, but so will the hearts of generations of Victorians and Australians,” Andrews said.
Durham and The Seekers captivated Cyrus Meher-Homji, Universal’s senior vice president of classics and jazz, when he was five years old.
“Judith, the dawn awaits you high above. Your artistry will live on in our hearts forever.”
Was Judith Durham married?
How old is Judith Durham of The Seekers?
Did Judith Durham have a stroke?
Durham suffered a stroke in May 2013, during the Seekers’ Golden Jubilee tour, which impaired her ability to read and write—both visual language and musical scores.