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Judith Durham dies at the age of 79

Folk music icon and popular Australian entertainer Judith Durham has died aged 79.

Durham died in Melbourne on Friday night of complications from a long-standing lung condition, her management said.

She made her first recording at age 19 and later rose to worldwide fame as the lead singer of The Seekers, having joined the group in 1963.

The four-piece became the first Australian band to achieve major chart and sales success in the UK and US, eventually selling 50 million records.

Durham began a solo career in 1968 but recorded again with The Seekers in the 1990s.

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(AAP Image/Alan Porritt)

In 2015 she was named Victorian of the Year.

Durham died in palliative care on Friday night after a brief stay at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, Universal Music Australia and Musicoast said in a statement on Saturday.

Her death was the result of complications from a long-standing chronic lung disease, the statement said.

Graham Simpson, member of the Seekers management team, said: “This is a sad day for Judith’s family, her fellow Seekers, the Musicoast staff, the music industry and fans worldwide, and all of us who have been a part of Judith’s life for so long . “

Durham’s sister, Beverley Sheehan, spoke of their shared love of music.

“Judith’s zest for life, constant optimism, creativity and generosity have always been an inspiration to me,” said Ms. Sheehan.

Her bandmates in The Seekers – Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy – said their lives were forever changed by the loss of “our cherished lifelong friend and shining star”.

“Her fight was intense and heroic, she never complained about her fate and fully accepted his end. Your amazing musical legacy, Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share,” they said.

Tributes were paid to the beloved singer, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailing Durham as “a national treasure and an Australian icon”.

“Judith Durham has given voice to a new strand of our identity and helped pave the way for a new generation of Australian artists,” Mr Albanese said on Twitter.

“Her kindness will be missed by many, the anthems she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton credited Durham as someone who “gave voice to more than a generation of Australians through words of universal appeal, carried by melodies that, once heard, etched themselves in our memories”.

“Durham demonstrated, song after song, concert after concert, how the human voice can reach and move each of us,” Dutton said in a statement.

“Her language was uniquely Australian and her voice a gift of universal beauty.”

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said the Essendon-born musician “conquered the music world both here in Australia and overseas”.

“With her unique voice and stage presence at the helm of The Seekers, the band became one of Australia’s biggest chart-topping stars,” Andrews said on Twitter.

Australia’s entertainment industry also reacted to the sad news, with singer Anthony Callea posting: “The sky above just got an angel’s voice.”

Actress Magda Szubanski expressed her “deepest condolences” to her loved ones.

“Her beautiful, crystal clear voice was the naïve but knowing siren song of my childhood,” Ms. Szubanski tweeted.

© AAP 2022

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