Judith Durham, Australian singer and vocalist of The Seekers, dies at 79

Judith Durham, the Australian singing great and vocalist of The Seekers, has died aged 79.

Durham released a number of solo albums but was best known as the voice of folk music group The Seekers, who she performed with from 1963 until 1968, when she left to pursue a solo career.

The band quickly rocketed to worldwide success and sold more than 50m 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.

Australia’s federal minister for the arts, Tony Burke, reacted to the news on social media, paying tribute to Durham as “an icon of our music”.

“Once, the best known Australian voice was Judith Durham’s,” he wrote. “What a contribution. What a loss.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, hailed Durham as “a national treasure and an Australian icon”.

“Judith Durham gave voice to a new strand of our identity and helped blaze a trail for a new generation of Aussie artists,” he said on Twitter. “Her kindness will be missed by many, the anthems she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, paid tribute to Durham as someone who “gave voice to more than one generation of Australians through words of universal appeal, carried by melodies that, once heard, became fixed in our memories”.

“Durham demonstrated in song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach, and move, every one of us,” Dutton said in a statement. “Her language was uniquely Australian, and her voice a gift of universal beauty.”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said the Essendon-born musician “went on to conquer the music world both here in Australia and overseas”.

“With her unique voice and stage presence leading The Seekers, the band became one of Australia’s biggest chart toppers,” Andrews said on Twitter.

Durham received a number of accolades 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 the Victorian of the Year in 2015.

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Born in Melbourne, Durham recorded her first EP at the age of 19 and rocketed to international fame after joining The Seekers alongside Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley.

They officially disbanded in 1968, a year after becoming joint recipients of the Australian of the Year award, but would later reunite to perform.

In 1969, Durham married the British pianist and musical director Ron Edgeworth before a brief stint in the UK and Switzerland. The couple survived a car crash with their tour manager in 1990 in which Durham sustained injuries including a fractured wrist and leg.

The huge outpouring from fans encouraged Durham to reunite with other members of The Seekers for a Silver Jubilee Show, at which time Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died four years later.

In 2013, Durham suffered a stroke that impacted her ability to read and write but not her singing. Her last album, a previously unreleased collection of songs titled So Much More, was released in 2018, to celebrate her 75th birthday.

– With Australian Associated Press

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