Men at Work’s Greg Ham found dead at 58
One of the greatest Australian musicians has been found dead early this morning at his home at Melbourne. In the early eighties-hardly arguable the most creative decade in music- his band “Men at Work” hit the world in a storm of hits that brought joy to millions. Fresh in my mind is the concert they played at San Francisco in 1983 which was televised through out the world by HBO, and where they showed their vast talent and connection to the people, playing live all of their hits like “Overkill” and “Who can it be now” in the masterful way they singularly knew how. Ham was the architect of these and many of the great hits “Men at Work” wrote. RIP Greg Ham, you who only offered music and happiness to the world surely will continue to delight heaven with your incomparable talent.
Men at Work’s Greg Ham has died with his most famous contribution to music – the flute riff in the Aussie band’s smash hit Down Under – becoming simply infamous.
In the end, that’s what the talented musician feared.
The 58-year-old was found dead in his Melbourne home on Thursday morning. The cause of death is yet to be determined.
The band achieved international fame in the 1980s but it was a copyright controversy over the distinctive flute riff that had Men at Work back in the headlines in recent years.
A court in 2010 found the riff was unmistakably the same as popular children’s tune Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, penned by Toorak teacher Marion Sinclair more than 75 years ago for a Girl Guides competition.
The decision left Ham shattered.
“It has destroyed so much of my song,” he told Fairfax at the time.
“It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that.
“I’m terribly disappointed that that’s the way I’m going to be remembered – for copying something.”
Men at Work’s recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert were ordered to pay five per cent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.
Music historian Glenn A Baker said the decision took some of the lustre off the band, but he didn’t believe it would forever taint Ham’s legacy as the flute player behind it.
“I don’t think for a moment that it takes away from the integrity or reputation of Colin Hay or Greg Ham,” he told AAP.
“It was generally acknowledged that this was just an odd accident. And if it was plagiarism, it was unconscious plagiarism.”
After the copyright ruling, Ham said he’d never see another cent out of the song again and he’d end up having to sell his house.
He sold his historic North Carlton home, a three-storey residence that he had owned once before, in 2011 but stayed in the suburb.
A friend went to check on Ham, who lived alone, on Thursday morning after not hearing from him for a week.
He left when no one answered the door but later returned with another friend and they found the body in the front of the house.
The homicide squad was called in because of what Detective Senior Sergeant Shane O’Connell described as a number of unexplained aspects.
“At this point in time, because of the early stages of our investigation, we’re not prepared to go into the exact details of what has occurred,” he told reporters.
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