News September 25, 2020

Australasian soul singer Max Merritt passes away, aged 79

Australasian soul singer Max Merritt passes away, aged 79

Soul singer Max Merritt, best known in Australia for hits in the 1960s and 1970s such as ‘Western Union Man’ and ‘Slipping Away’, passed away in a Los Angeles hospital yesterday (September 24).

The 79-year old’s health had been in decline since being diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome, a rare but serious autoimmune disease that attacks the lungs and kidneys.

His Melbourne-based manager Wal Bishop, said: “Max had been on dialysis three days every week since he fell ill back in 2007.

“He really put up a great fight and will be sadly missed by all that knew and loved him”.

In October 2007, 20 household names including Daryl Braithwaite, John Paul Young, James Reyne and Ross Wilson rallied in support of Merritt with a concert that raised well over $200,000 for him.

He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in July 2008 where he was joined on-stage by Kasey Chambers and Bill Chambers to perform ‘Slipping Away’.

Born in Christchurch on April 30 1941, Merritt moved to Sydney in 1965 where Max Merritt & The Meteors became a huge live drawcard.

“It was a helluva business to get into Australia in those days,” Merritt would remember.

“It was a closed shop. They were quite content with all the variety acts around the clubs.

“You were dealing with all the old school of guys.”

During their stay in Sydney, “We worked at the Rex and probably got about £120 a week.

“We played about 20 minutes a night then had all day on the beach – Bondi.”

In 1967, the band moved to Melbourne.

Tragedy struck in June when they were involved in a serous car crash on the way to a gig in regional Morwell.

Merritt lost his right eye, while other members of the band also suffered serious injuries which left them with permanent limps.

Merritt released 16 albums throughout his career.

Although in the early 70s he made his home in London and then Los Angeles where he worked on jingles, he continued to tour Australia and New Zealand regularly until 2007.

These included the Heart and Soul of RnR and Long Way to the Top tours.

Bishop said: “Max had been unable to perform live over the past 13 years but, when he felt up to it, would go into the studio to record.

“He even shot a video to go with the tracks, it’s a shame he won’t be around to see it”.

Merritt is survived by his daughter Kelli, son Josh and three grandchildren.

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