Australian music industry icon Michael Gudinski has died suddenly, aged 68.
Gudinski died on Monday night, according to a statement from his record company, Mushroom.
The promoter and company boss was a towering figure in Australian music. He was just 20 when he launched Mushroom Records in 1972.
Gudinski worked with some of Australia’s biggest names, including Jimmy Barnes, who sent out an emotional tweet on Tuesday.
“He was there for everyone who needed him. The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael. He was a force of nature, a giant man,” Barnes wrote.
Gudinski also ran Frontier Touring under the Mushroom umbrella in 1979, and signed numerous Australian acts, among them Eskimo Joe and Skyhooks.
He launched the careers of fellow Melburnians Kylie and Dannii Minogue who went on to international acclaim.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Michael Gudinski AM overnight,” Mushroom Group said in a statement.
“The much-loved Australian music legend died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Melbourne, Australia.”
Frontier Touring also acknowledged Gudinski’s death “with profound sadness”.
“Michael was renowned for his loyalty and dedication. His ability to achieve the unachievable against unsurmountable odds was proven time and again and spoke to his absolute passion for his career and life,” it said in a statement.
“Michael’s legacy will live on through his family and the enormously successful Mushroom Group – an enduring embodiment of decades of passion and determination from an incredible man.”
Gudinski was born in Melbourne in 1952, to Russian immigrant parents. He got his first taste of the entrepreneurial life aged just seven, when he charged Caulfield Cup racegoers to park in a vacant block next to his house.
By 15, he was organising dances and earning $500 a week, with bands showing up on his parents’ doorstep for payment. After booking acts such as The Aztecs and Chain (who he also managed), Gudinski dropped out of his final year of high school and established his first booking agency, Consolidated Rock, in 1970.
In 1972, with a new business partner in Ray Evans, Gudinski booked a major musical coup with the inaugural Sunbury Festival. More than 35,000 fans paid $6 for a three-day ticket.
It was quickly followed by his first international tour as promoterin teh same year: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.
“It was the most money I’d ever made in one night in my life,” he later told a biographer.
He set up Mushroom Records later that same year.
Tributes were flowing for Gudinski as reports of his death emerged on Tuesday.
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe described the promoter as a towering figure and said the news he had died “seems almost impossible”.
“I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything, except maybe Ed Sheeran,” he said.
“[It] still didn’t stop us being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply.”
Comedian Joel Creasey said Gudinski was a genius.
“He was my tour promoter for a brief period and stayed a friend even when I moved elsewhere,” he wrote.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said Gudinski had been a friend.
“The story of Australian music will always have Michael in a lead role,” he wrote.
“Half-larrikin, half-genius, he made sure our nation had its own soundtrack.”
Most recently, Gudinski developed the Music From The Home Front TV concert to showcase the local music industry as it struggled through the coronavirus pandemic.
He is survived by his wife Sue and children Kate and Matt and two grandchildren Nina-Rose and Lulu.
“Michael’s legacy will live on through his family and the enormously successful Mushroom Group – an enduring embodiment of decades of passion and determination from an incredible man,” the statement read.
“The family respectfully ask for privacy in this incredibly difficult time and thank everyone for their support.”