The Carnival Is Over: Judith Durham, RIP

 

File:Judith Durham.pngThe year is 1964. The pop revolution is underway, and groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones own the British charts and are besieged by thousands of screaming girls throwing flowers (and much else) at them wherever they go.

Out of nowhere, that May, a quartet of young Australians who’d worked their passage from Down Under to the UK as the entertainment on a cruise liner, and who were expecting to stay for just ten weeks for a few small nightclub gigs, erupted onto the nation’s television sets and quickly won its heart.

They were clean-cut, frumpy even; not shaggy or swivel-hipped. The men (two guitarists and a bassist) wore suits and ties. The girl singer, Judith Durham, a former secretary who’d joined the group some eighteen months earlier, often wore modest dresses she’d made herself.

By February 1965, The Seekers had the number one song in the UK, Australia, and much of the rest of the world:

For the next couple of years, they were the number one pop group in the world, outselling all the usual suspects, hands down.

Of course, their biggest and most recognizable single came in 1967, with the title song to the film Georgy Girl:

But my two favorite Seekers songs are the beautiful Eriskay Love Lilt:

And the song which, in 1968, ended their (first) collaboration, as Judith left the group to pursue other musical interests:

Over the decades, they’ve reunited several times for tours of Australia and the UK, and the miracle of that bell-like voice never waned. From their 50th-anniversary tour in 2014:

Judith Durham, who owned of one of the clearest, purest voices in all the musical spheres, died on August 5, 2022, at the age of 79.

Rest in peace, sweet lady.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RIP.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    They have always been one of my favorite groups. Thanks for sharing this.

    I enjoy Fil’s analyses of great artists and songs. Here is one he did for the Seekers.

    • #2
  3. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Another gift from when the voice and the music had to stand on their own, without excessive electronic production and manipulation, and without a lot of visual theatrics. [OK, maybe I’m biased because I’m old and grew up with this music.]

    • #3
  4. Hank Rhody's Grandson Member
    Hank Rhody's Grandson
    @OldDanRhody

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
     

    Another gift from when the voice and the music had to stand on their own, without excessive electronic production and manipulation, and without a lot of visual theatrics.

    Repeating because I can only give one “like.”

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Great job.  Thanks!

    • #5
  6. She Member
    She
    @She

    JoelB (View Comment):

    They have always been one of my favorite groups. Thanks for sharing this.

    I enjoy Fil’s analyses of great artists and songs. Here is one he did for the Seekers.

    That was great, and very interesting and insightful both in what he says about Judith and about the other members of the group, very talented, all of them.  I also loved seeing him smile as he watched them perform.

    Despite the celebrity, and the adulation of millions of fans, Judith Durham didn’t lead a particularly charmed life.  She was quite open about her uncomfortable relationship with fame, and her self-consciousness about her looks and her weight, when compared to many of the mid-60s glamor-girls of popular entertainment in the UK–Petula, Lulu, Dusty, Cilla, and so on.  That awkwardness, and the toll it took on her emotional health, led to her leaving the group and striking out on her own, enjoying a modestly successful career and devoting herself to her singing, her Christian faith, her charitable endeavors, and caring for her husband, composer and pianist Ron Edgeworth, who suffered from motor neurone (Lou Gehrig’s) disease, until his death in 1994.

    She herself suffered for a long time from bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition which worsened with time, and complications from which led to her death.  

    In 1993 she underwent surgery for leg, arm, and collarbone fractures, after a car accident in Melbourne.  In 2000, she broke her hip, rejoining the group some weeks later and singing from a wheelchair.  In May of 2013, she suffered a stroke that affected her ability to read and write.  Eventually, she regained the ability to do both. 

    Somehow, miraculously, none of those things affected her ability to sing.  It seems that even God was unwilling to mess with that gift He’d bestowed on this fragile but indomitable little lady.

     

     

    • #6
  7. She Member
    She
    @She

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Another gift from when the voice and the music had to stand on their own, without excessive electronic production and manipulation, and without a lot of visual theatrics. [OK, maybe I’m biased because I’m old and grew up with this music.]

    Ditto.

    When I read this comment the first time, I read the last sentence as “OK maybe I’m blessed because I’m old and grew up with this music.”

    That works too, I think.

    • #7
  8. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    I have always thought that Judith had the best pure voice in pop or rock or folk.  She deserved more recognition then she received.

    • #8
  9. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    OH, NO!!!  …. Great post, @She!  Thank you.

    • #9
  10. Linda Seebach Coolidge
    Linda Seebach
    @linsee

    So sad, but imagine, a 50th anniversary tour! after so much difficulty.

    I think I have all the Seekers albums, even some Australian ones given to me by a friend who on more than one occasion flew to Australia to attend their concerts (and met them while he was there).

     

    • #10
  11. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    I’m a musical ignoramus, and it was a delightful surprise to learn now of this beautiful voice. Thank you.

    • #11
  12. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    She will be missed.  You don’t often hear a voice like that.  

    But with The Seekers, you don’t often hear melodies like that either.

    The combination is pretty amazing.

     

     

    • #12
  13. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    So sad ! May she RIP; apparently she was battling some long term lung disease.

    Judith had a incredible voice. She (with the Seekers help)  could turn what otherwise were hum-drum songs into classics. 

    • #13
  14. She Member
    She
    @She

    namlliT noD (View Comment):

    She will be missed. You don’t often hear a voice like that.

    But with The Seekers, you don’t often hear melodies like that either.

    The combination is pretty amazing.

    Many of their hits (including I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of Our Own, Georgy Girl) were written or co-written by Dusty’s brother, Tom Springfield. The Carnival is Over, which is also credited to Springfield, is an adaptation of a Russian folk song:

    I’m old enough and blessed/biased enough to remember when The Springfields (a trio which included Dusty and Tom and a friend) sang as a group, before he devoted himself to writing, and she set out on her own career:

    Here they are in 1962, singing (rather painfully methinks) Tom’s Island of Dreams:

    (In the same rather torturous vein, they had previously had a British hit with American Country standard, Silver Threads and Golden Needles.)

    The Seekers had a hit with Island of Dreams, giving it a very different treatment, in 1966:

    What the juxtaposition of these two pieces does is remind me of how utterly effortless, unforced, and natural The Seekers sound is.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I was saddened to find out one of my favorite opera singers died this past January – Maria Ewing.  Here she is singing The Habanera from Carmen (video quality is poor, but I have the DVD):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF5QONMTaA8

    She was also bold, performing a real dance of the seven veils in Salome.  RIP to both ladies . . .

    • #15
  16. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Well, I’m not getting any younger, but it’s nice to have full recollection of the time when what was basically folk crossed over to an emerging “rock/pop” scene, producing a number of hits.  The Seekers certainly exemplify this, but we all remember We Five and “You Were on My Mind.”  The Lovin’ Spoonful came from folk, and, of course, Dylan “went electric.”  The huge hit “Eve of Destruction” was recoded by New Christy Minstrel Barry McGuire, the Mamas and Papas had their roots in folk, and there are others that I’m too pooped to list 😁

    • #16
  17. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    She:

    And the song which, in 1968, ended their (first) collaboration, as Judith left the group to pursue other musical interests:

    I only know that song via the Boney M cover:

    • #17
  18. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    About the clearest, most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard. RIP.

    • #18
  19. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    I like their version of California Dreaming.

    • #19
  20. She Member
    She
    @She

    Another side of Judith Durham, the classically trained pianist:

     

    • #20
  21. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    She: Of course, their biggest and most recognizable single came in 1967, with the title song to the film Georgy Girl

    We watched the film the other night; it wasn’t bad. The story is based — a rare feature in more recent film.

    She: Judith Durham, who owned of one of the clearest, purest voices…

    So true. It is readily recognizable and stands out from all the rest.

    • #21
  22. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Thank you for this post and all the comments. A fitting tribute to a beautiful talent.

    • #22
  23. She Member
    She
    @She

    iWe (View Comment):

    Thank you for this post and all the comments. A fitting tribute to a beautiful talent.

    Thanks, @iWe.  I second your remark about the comments.  I’ve been touched by how many people have responded, and what they’ve said.

    The Seekers were such a part of my childhood, which didn’t exactly revolve around music, but which contained a lot of it.  My mother’s tastes were–to put it mildly–eclectic, and as kids and adolescents we weren’t really encouraged to immerse ourselves in most of the pop scene, so I suppose many of my recollections, and the music I choose to celebrate even today must sometimes seem a bit odd.

    But oh, I remember sitting in Granny’s living room  when I must have been 11 or so, on a trip back to the UK, watching The Seekers on Top of the Pops, on Granny’s old black-and-white Baird television. It wasn’t this model (didn’t have doors), but wasn’t far from it:

    M.712; Baird brand - Baird (ID = 467567) Television

    One of those memories that never leaves you.

    • #23
  24. She Member
    She
    @She

    Another memory, thanks to my mother:  The Ian Campbell Folk Group singing a classic which has survived to this day in many different forms:

    Lorna Campbell has one of “those” voices too.  Although if Judith Durham is a ‘treble’ bell, Lorna was somewhere on her way down the early stages of the scales to the ‘tenor.’

    I have to take the Campbells in small doses, because their politics (which they were never shy about announcing) really got up my nose, but Lorna has an undeniably beautiful voice.

    Here’s The Seekers’ Gypsy Rover:

     

     

    • #24
  25. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    What a lovely, talented lady. The Seekers were of course part of the background to my own young adulthood. I have to say their songs were not among my favorites (I can’t stand Georgy Girl) but now I wish I had known more about them. It is my own failing  that I don’t pay attention to things around me and take a deeper interest. I wish I had.

    • #25
  26. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    What a lovely, talented lady. The Seekers were of course part of the background to my own young adulthood. I have to say their songs were not among my favorites (I can’t stand Georgy Girl) but now I wish I had known more about them. It is my own failing that I don’t pay attention to things around me and take a deeper interest.

    Hey, there was a *lot* going on at the time.

     

    • #26
  27. AllanMorris Coolidge
    AllanMorris
    @AllanMorris

    When I saw the notice of Judith Durham’s death I was not entirely sure who she was. I had lived through the period of her greatest success when popular music meant more to me than it does now but despite that, I had no emotional connection to her and to The Seekers. They were outliers in the Rock’N’Roll culture of the period -maybe too sweet, too ingenuous, too lacking in attitude to be appealing to what constituted my musical interests at the time.

    Reading her death notices and re-visiting her work I am not sure I can think of any other singer of popular music whose voice had the crystalline clarity and strength of Durham’s glorious voice. It was a unique gift,her death is being appropriately marked by Australia with a State funeral and for those of us who did not fully recognize her amazing talent during her lifetime a chance to listen to her again.

    • #27
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