Judith Durham, the former lead singer of The Seekers, has died aged 79.
Her death was confirmed by The Seekers on Saturday (August 6), with the band writing in a statement that Durham passed after a short stay in the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria – a short ways out from her hometown of Essendon. She was admitted into palliative care a day prior, and died as a result of complications from her lengthly struggle with a chronic lung disease.
In a personal statement shared on behalf of her band (which also included guitarists Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley), bassist Athol Guy said: “Our lives are changed forever losing our treasured lifelong friend and shining star. Her struggle was intense and heroic – never complaining of her destiny and fully accepting its conclusion. Her magnificent musical legacy Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share.”
Sharing the sentiment was Durham’s sister, Beverley Sheehan, who added: “Judith’s joy for life, her constant optimism, creativity and generosity of spirit were always an inspiration to me.”
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Durham’s family have asked for privacy in the wake of her passing. Over the weekend, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced that – with the blessing of her family – Durham would be honoured at a state funeral. In doing so, he described her as “a true icon of Australian music”, and asserted that “her memory will not only live on in her numerous hit songs, but in the hearts of generations of Victorians and Australians”.
Born in 1943, Durham formed The Seekers with Guy, Potger and Woodley in 1962. They released their first album, Introducing The Seekers, a year later. The band released a total of 13 albums – the most recent being 2019’s Back To Our Roots. Durham didn’t sing on any of the four albums released between 1975 and 1989, as she embarked a solo career in 1968. She also wasn’t involved in the band’s first two comebacks.
As a solo artist, Durham released 11 studio albums, bookending her catalogue with the Christmas-themed albums For Christmas With Love (1968) and It’s Christmas Time (2013). She also released five live albums, five compilations and one EP as a solo artist, as well as seven live albums, 36 compilations and six TV specials with The Seekers.
The Seekers enjoyed a litany of monumental accolades. In 1967, they were named joint Australians Of The Year. They were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 1995, and the same year, Durham was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). 19 years later (in 2014), each member of the band was individually honoured as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).
Among the many notable figures to share condolences for Durham’s passing was Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who wrote in a statement: “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. Her kindness will be missed by many, the anthems she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”