Entertainment Celebrity Music’s biggest names farewell Gudinski, the godfather of Australian rock

Music’s biggest names farewell Gudinski, the godfather of Australian rock

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He put Australia on the global music map, and now the industry’s biggest stars have flocked to Rod Laver Arena to farewell their friend and mentor, Michael Gudinski.

At 7:07pm on Wednesday evening, 8000 people gathered to watch performances from Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Mark Seymour, Vika and Linda and Mia Wray.

Sheeran dedicated three songs to Gudinski, Castle on the Hill, The A Team and an unreleased song, Visiting Hours, he wrote for the late music promoter last week while he was quarantining ahead of the service with his wife Cherry Seaborn, and six-month-old daughter, Lyra Antarctica.

During Visiting Hours, Sheeran broke down in tears, but managed to keep it together to finish the song.

Minogue brought Sheeran back onto the stage for a duet of the song that started her career, The Loco-motion.

Jimmy Barnes also unveiled a new song he said had taken on additional meaning since the loss of his friend.

In a later statement, he said Flesh and Blood was “about the unbreakable bonds that bind us to our families through all of life’s ups and the downs”.

“The song has taken on an extra meaning for our family since Michael’s passing,” Barnes said.

“When I say he was a brother to me, I mean that in every sense. We could drive each other nuts sometimes but there was always a deep and loving connection there.”

Solemn speeches from Gudinski’s children, Matt and Kate, as well as the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau, remembered a larger than life figure of the music scene.

To those that knew him, Gudinski was a warm, outspoken music-lover and “legend” who “helped this city build a global identity”.

Peppered throughout the ceremony were pre-recorded messages from Gudinski’s beloved artists, including Billy Joel, Taylor Swift and Bliss n Eso.

In his video, Elton John spoke of how “musicians from all over the world wanted to come to Australia to work with [Gudinski]”.

Missy Higgins called the 68-year-old “a champion for musicians”.

Carrie Bickmore, who spoke live at the event, fondly remembered Gudinski as a “huge supporter of women”, and praised him for collaborating with her for her charity, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer.

Bruce Springsteen also appeared via video, as did Rod Stewart, Amy Shark, Shawn Mendes, Sam Smith, Sting, Deborah Conway and Garbage’s Shirley Manson.

Dave Grohl said Gudinski “didn’t just walk into a room, he charged into a room”.

With Gudinski’s help, Red Symons shot to fame via rock band Skyhooks. Photo: AAP

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who was not able to attend the service due to his spinal injury but passed on a short speech to be read by host Lee Simon, said Gudinski was a “great Australian and an even better friend”.

“There are few people that shaped our state like Michael Gudinski,” Mr Andrews said.

Gudinski died suddenly in his sleep while at home on March 2.

Close family and friends – including Kylie and Danni Minogue, Paul Kelly, Molly Meldrum and Jimmy Barnes – gathered on March 10 at a private funeral.

Jimmy Barnes at Gudinski’s funeral in Melbourne. Photo: AAP

Gudinski’s great legacy

In honour of the late music promoter and record label founder, the ARIA award for best breakthrough artist will be renamed to The Michael Gudinski breakthrough artist ARIA award.

Born to Russian Jewish immigrants on August 22, 1952, Gudinski fell in love with music from an early age.

In 1959, he had his first taste on entrepreneurship when he noticed people driving slowly looking for a carpark around his home near Caulfield racecourse.

A money-savvy, seven-year-old Gudinski began charging cars two shillings to park in his backyard, an operation he extended to his neighbours yards for a small cut of the profit.

Michael Gudinski
Gudinski is widely praised for his contributions to the Australian music scene. Photo: Getty 

By the time he was 15, he was regularly attending lunchtime gigs and had begun organising dances, with bands showing up to the family home to get paid.

Soon after, he dropped out of school (to the great disappointment of his father who soon threw him out of home) to pursue his dream of owning his own booking agency.

In 1972, at just 20 years old, Gudinski booked the inaugural Sunbury Music Festival and established is record label, the legendary Mushroom Records.

Paul Kelly was one of several Australian music stars to farewell Gudinski in a memorial service. Photo: AAP

Within the first two years, Mushroom Records release Skyhooks’ debut album Living in the 70s, which became the best-selling Australian album of the era.

Gudinski later formed Frontier Touring in 1979, which brought some of the world’s biggest stars to our sunny shores.

Over five decades, Gudinski shaped the music scene and toured international acts like Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Black Eyed Peas, Foo Fighters, Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams.

He also helped launch the careers of Minogue, Barnes, Hunters and Collectors, Paul Kelly, The Angels, Amy Shark and Split Enz.