Ed Sheeran, Jimmy Barnes and Kylie Minogue lead charge to remember Michael Gudinski at state memorial
They both lived in the same country but never did – that is until last night when they came together at Michael Gudinski’s state memorial at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Like all other acts to perform on the night, Sheeran and Minogue played the songs that Gudinski had loved. In his case, it was ‘Castle On The Hill’ and ‘The A-Team’.
Sheeran – who sported a St Kilda Football Club tie as a nod to Gudinski’s AFL team – also premiered a song he’d written the week before, during his two-week quarantine during which he had been processing the promoter’s sudden passing.
It was called ‘Visiting Hours’ (“it’s not good-bye, it’s till we meet again”) about how he’d visit heaven during visiting hours and ask to take Michael home.
The emotion of the moment got to Sheehan, and he left the stage weeping. but returned later to join Minogue for ‘All The Lovers’ and a sing-along acoustic rendition of ‘The Loco-Motion’.
“The big G took this little scrawny girl from Melbourne to the world and back home again,” Minogue said. “He believed in you when you couldn’t believe in yourself.”
The memorial began with a First Nations welcome to country and appreciation for Gudinski’s support for that community. Mahalia Barnes performed the national anthem, and Sting his virtual rendition of ‘The Empty Chair’ which he finished off with “I miss you brother.”
Jimmy Barnes in a kilt made it a family affair, with Mahalia (Gudinski’s goddaughter), brother-in-law Diesel on guitar, Jackie Barnes on drums and granddaughter Ruby Rogers.
“Michael was my mate, my brother, my partner in crime. We laughed, we fought, we cried together. He was my hero,” the ‘Working Class Man’ singer said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Michael, he was one of a kind. Australian music would not be what it is today without his support and nurturing.”
His set began with new single ‘Flesh And Blood’ which he’d played to Gudinski a week before, the tender ‘Little Light’ which he hoped to do “without crying”, and a soul-blues rendition of Cold Chisel’s ‘When The War Is Over’.
He closed the night with an appropriate rock-out of ‘Good Times’ with all the night’s performers, as well as Jon Stevens, a fellow throat from hell.
In between, the governor of Victoria Linda Dessau name-checked a 2015 story on The Music Network, and friend and fellow-football tragic Rabbi Menachem Wolf got the 7,200 strong audience to sing along to a piece from The Jewish Book Of Prayers.
Vika and Linda joined Mark Seymour to bring a touch of gospel to Hunters & Collectors ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’, while 24-year old Mia Wray’s rough blues-rock performance of ‘Never Gonna Be The Same’ explained why Gudinski brought her under his wing.
Just before Paul Kelly’s ‘Leaps And Bounds’ with Michael Barclay, he recalled how he took Archie Roach to meet Gudinski 31 years ago.
The latter, he said, realised the importance of the voice of First Australians and “their perception being an important part of the conversation”.
Although Gudinski knew commercial radio wouldn’t take to ‘Took The Children Away’, he still backed it wholeheartedly.
Kelly said in their last conversation, the record mogul was eager to put together a concert of First Nations artists for broadcast on TV.
The singer-songwriter indicated that could still take place.
Similarly, Matt Gudinski (pictured, above) also hinted that the 50th-anniversary celebrations of Mushroom would have the same epic nature as his father’s previous spectacles.
The night, hosted by Gudinski’s best friend, former radio executive Lee Simon, included a personal history of Gudinski with photos and videos.
There were dozens of tributes from the A-list including Bruce Springsteen (“the last of the great music men”), Taylor Swift (“unbelievable loss”), Peter Garrett (“a true pioneer…we didn’t always see eye to eye”), Billy Joel (“a great guy to hang out with, he loved musicians and they loved him right back”), Missy Higgins (how she was nervous opening for Ed Sheeran before 80,000 people and Gudinski convinced her she would rock the place out), Caleb of Kings Of Leon, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Shirley Manson of Garbage (“believed in us when we lost confidence in ourselves”), Kate Ceberano, Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Deborah Conway, Gordi and Daryl Braithwaite.
The one that drew the most laughter was from Josh Homme of Queens of The Stone Age.
Gudinski took him out for dinner at the Crown and discovered he’d double-booked two restaurants. So through the night, they’d keep moving from one to another, having two dinners.
During one of their moves, they accidentally went into a third room, full of strangers. “Who the hell are you blokes?” Gudinski barked. They ended up staying at the third party.
“Michael was like a credit card – he was accepted anywhere.”