Entertainment Celebrity Australian rocker Jon English dies, aged 66
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Australian rocker Jon English dies, aged 66

Jon English.
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British-born Australian singer and actor Jon English died on Wednesday night after complications from a small operation for an aortic aneurysm.

English was well known for his work in music, television and on the stage, with his breakthrough role in Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1970s.

A statement from the his talent representatives said at the time of his passing he was surrounded by family members, including his four children, wife Carmen, sister Janet and brother Jeremy, as well as other close family members.

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In late February he was hospitalised due to “unexpected ill health” and his management postponed a number of shows in Tamworth and Dubbo that conflicted with his scheduled surgery.

Robert Rigby, the manager of English’s record label, said the sudden death had shocked everyone.

Singers Daryl Braithwaite, Ally Fowler, Jon English, John Paul Young and TV host Ian "Molly" Meldrum.
Iconic singers Daryl Braithwaite, Ally Fowler, Jon English, John Paul Young and TV host Ian “Molly” Meldrum. Photo: Getty

“Jon was truly an Aussie rock legend,” he said.

“This news has come as a very big shock to family and friends and of course the industry as a whole.

“Jon was not expecting anything more than a routine operation but due to complications unfortunately he passed away at almost midnight.”

Close friend, musician Simon Gallaher who was also in Pirates of Penzance, said he received a text message from English’s partner in the middle of the night.

“It says ‘it’s with a very heavy heart I send you this message … we are all absolutely devastated that this occurred and I send you my love’,” Gallaher said.

According to Gallaher, English was hospitalised for broken ribs when the aneurysm was discovered.

“They happened just to stumble across this,” Gallaher told AAP.

“He was in Adelaide and I think he just fell over and hurt himself that way.

“I was chatting to him in the hospital and he was just there under observation, he was perfectly well in himself although this problem was there.”

Gallaher paid tribute to his friend’s music and acting skills, adding he was consistently impressive in the musical comedy Pirates of Penzance.

“You would think it was all almost ad lib. His craft was to make it look like that and to do it consistently eight times a week, 52 times a year — we did hundreds of thousands of those performances and Jon never missed and Jon was always consistent and always funny,” he said.

“Last year we did a new production of Spamalot — the Monty Python show — and we tried it out in Brisbane and it was a great, great success and great fun.

“Well that’s something that will never happen now because I would never do it without him.”

Legendary career

English had a very successful musical career recording five albums during the 70s before moving into acting.

English got his big break in' Jesus Christ Superstar' in the 1970s.
English got his big break in’ Jesus Christ Superstar’ in the 1970s. Photo: ABC

Born in Hamstead, London in 1949, English came to Australia with his parents and siblings at the age of 12.

He was well known for his lead role of Bobby Rivers in 1991 in the television sitcom All Together Now.

English was cast as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar at the age of 22 and toured with the show all over Australia and New Zealand for the next five years.

During this time he also recorded four albums with songs including Handbags and Gladrags, Hollywood Seven, and Turn the Page, which was his first number one hit.

Ambition Entertainment said it commemorated his passing “with great sadness”.

In early 2009 English teamed up with a group of multi-instrumentalists in a 60s and 70s rock music tribute called The Rock Show.

At the time of his passing, he was still performing regularly in a variety of music shows.

English was set to tour Australia from May starting in Perth.

A public service celebrating his life is set to be held.

Tributes for the legendary rocker from friends and fans were flowing in on Twitter.

with AAP/ABC