An interview with The Seeker's lead singer, Judith Durham, reveals one class act.
Fifty years ago The Seekers, featuring lead singer Judith Durham, burst on to the world scene. They had a short global run before retiring (1964 – 1968), but during that time The Seekers pushed both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones off the top of the music charts for seventeen straight weeks. And they’ve sold 50 million records.
Their "Georgy Girl" was the theme song of a movie by the same name, starring Vanessa Redgrave. But it was a high pressure world for these four folk-influenced, pop musicians from Australia. A crowd of more than 200,000 people attended their 1967 concert in Australia’s Myer Music Bowl. The Guinness Book of Records still lists it as the largest concert crowd in the southern hemisphere.
Intriguingly, there were two sets of lyrics to “Georgy Girl”—one for the best-selling hit single, another for the movie starring Lynn Redgrave. The intro scene became a signature for Redgrave.
One of my favorites produced by The Seekers is “Morningtown Ride,” a music video about the vintage steam train “Puffing Billy.” The orphans in the video are from the St. Vincent de Paul orphanage. Some were looking happy, others smirking, a few bemused, and more than several wondering what the heck was going on. Pay special attention to the engineer, fireman and sandman.
The Seekers’ final performance together in 1968 was a television special called "Farewell The Seekers"—a concert filmed in the BBC TV studios. Their final song together was "Georgy Girl," which followed "The Carnival Is Over."
After that night, Judith Durham resumed her solo career and recorded a solo Christmas album and two orchestral albums for A&M, before she and her husband Ron, the love of her life, returned to their Jazz roots for a nine-year period. marriage that ended far too soon (discussed in detail below). After this she devoted her life to philanthropic work, her music and occasional get-togethers with the original group.
In June 2014, Queen Elizabeth II awarded each of The Seekers one of the Commonwealth’s highest honors, the Medal of the Order of Australia, for seminal contributions to Australian music and their support for non-profit organizations.
They have recently released "The Seekers 50 Golden Jubilee Album." Fellow group members Bruce Woodley, Athol Guy, and Keith Potger also stand out among top recording artists for the exceptional and honorable lives they’ve led.
Ms. Durham wrote careful and lengthy answers to questions I sent her concerning her music, her charitable work, and finally, her marriage—one much different than most in show business. They reveal the life of a very beautiful lady, one who has given freely and fully of her life and talents for over five decades.
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How did your interest for Gospel music develop? Are there singers or musicians whom you have admired?
I was aware of gospel stories from Sunday school, and from being in the school choir and madrigal groups, but I didn’t realise they were so-called Negro spirituals, until my teenage years, when the trad jazz and blues and black gospel music was all the rage, even in the pop charts sometimes. There were crossover, fashionable songs, which I started singing with jazz bands; songs recorded by Mahlia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Sister Lottie Peavey, and harmony groups like The Swan Silvertone Singers and The Spirit of Memphis Quartet. Some of these I learned from reel-to-reel tapes that my friends in the trad jazz world loaned me; standout songs like “Open Up Them Pearly Gates,” “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “When I Move To The Sky,” “Down By The Riverside,” and “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” which became part of my repertoire prior to The Seekers.