The music of The Seekers, an Australian group formed in 1962 in Melbourne, was a backdrop to my early teenage years.
Comprising guitarists Bruce Woodley and Keith Potger, Athol Guy on bass, and female singer Judith Durham, The Seekers became one of Australia’s premier acts, and they enjoyed celebrity status abroad with hits like The Carnival is Over (released in 1965) and Georgy Girl (in 1966, the title song to the movie of the same name starring Lynn Redgrave, and nominated for an Oscar).
I hadn’t thought about The Seekers for many decades. They went out of fashion (outside of Australia, at least) and, in any case, my musical tastes had evolved. Then, a few months back I saw an item in the news that Judith Durham had died on 5 August at the age of 79. But beyond reading her obituary in The Guardian, I didn’t think any more about her or the group.
Until earlier this week. Just by chance I came across this video on YouTube of The Seekers in a farewell concert in 2014 (all members would have been in their early- to mid-70s by then), performing I Am Australian. Co-composed by Bruce Woodley in 1987 it has become, so I’ve come to understand, something of an anthem in Australia. Some have even been suggested it as an alternative national anthem.
Since I heard I Am Australian just a few days ago, it has become an ear worm. It’s a pleasant enough composition, somewhat saccharine—sentimental even—to my taste. But something has made it stick in my mind.
Just listen to Judith Durham’s vocals. In this performance her voice was as strong and pure as back in the 1960s. What a voice! And even more remarkable since she had an illness-induced lung/respiratory condition (bronchiectasis) from about the age of 5 that affected her breathing, and which contributed to her death this year.
Beautiful and powerful voices like Judith Durham’s don’t come along very often. And now that I have reconnected with The Seekers, so-to-speak, I can appreciate just how special she was as a singer.
“Georgy Girl” was an enormous hit in the U.S. It accompanied my family, via our car’s radio, all over Wyoming and surrounding states during its heyday.
We were nomadic through the summer months, following Dad as he bossed his asphalt paving crew, as part of Eisenhower’s Highway Act.
Songs like “Georgy Girl” made bearable many long, tedious rides in the un-air-conditioned back seat of our ’57 Chevy Bel-air.
Because of the circumstances, it always brings back warm and wonderful memories.
R.I.P. Judith Durham!