Men at Work's Greg Ham found dead
Versatile musician Greg Ham will perhaps be best remembered for his signature flute riff in Men at Work's global hit Down Under.PT1M11S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1x9o6 620 349 April 19, 2012
IT WAS an upbeat, sunny riff, but the legacy of the flute solo in Men At Work's mega-hit single Down Under had long soured for Greg Ham.
''I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered - for copying something, '' the musician said two years ago when the recording of one of Australia's iconic pop hits, Down Under, was found by a court to have reproduced ''a substantial part'' of the folk song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.
Ham, who was found dead in his Melbourne home yesterday, had said his reputation had been tarnished. ''It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that,'' he said in 2010.
Success ... Men At Work at the height of the band's fame in 1983, with Greg Ham on the left.
The 58-year-old's body was discovered by friends at the modest house he recently moved into after being forced to sell a grand property nearby that he had bought at the height of Men At Work's success.
The cause of death remains unknown, but a close friend of Ham's said last night he believed Ham, who had been on a methadone program, had begun using heroin again ''heavily'' and abusing alcohol after the Kookaburra trial. ''The whole case had undone him,'' the friend.
Ham had recently separated from his wife, Linda Wostry. The couple have two children, aged 17 and 20.
Men at Work's Greg Ham
Greg Ham on July 6, 2010. Photo by Wayne Taylor
''He was the funniest person I knew,'' the band's frontman, Colin Hay, said in a statement yesterday. ''We shared countless, unbelievably memorable times together.''
''I love him very much. He's a beautiful man … I'm thinking about his family, and hoping they are receiving the love and support they need and deserve.''
Peter Karpin, the head of Mercury Records in Australia, who signed Men At Work for CBS in 1981, said Ham ''added the colour to the band, both in the recording and stage presence''.
Ham joined the band in 1979 as a multi-instrumentalist, playing keyboards, saxophone and flute. The latter two instruments were key elements in the band's first hits, Who Can It Be Now?, with its prominent saxophone, and Down Under, with its distinctive flute figure.
But Ham's energy and zaniness were tested by the peculiar circumstances of the huge fame achieved by Men At Work, who had the No.1 album and single simultaneously in both the US and Britain, the first and last time an Australian band achieved that. The band had sales of more than 12 million and won a Grammy award for best new artist of 1983.
David Nolte, Ham's friend of 30 years and a Carlton pharmacist, found the musician's body just after noon after friends had become concerned that he was not contactable.
Hay had insisted since the 2010 court verdict that any plagiarism was unintentional.
Larrikin Music Publishing, which owns the copyright for Kookaburra, sued Hay, his fellow songwriter Ron Strykert and EMI Music Publishing, seeking back-dated royalties and a share of future profits.
Larrikin Music sought a 50 per cent royalty cut, but the Federal Court ordered that Hay, Strykert and EMI pay Larrikin 5 per cent of Down Under's future profits, as well as royalties dating back to 2002.
Ham, who received a small percentage of the song's royalties, said at the time that while the decision ''could have been worse'', he was worried that ''at the end of the day, I'll end up selling my house''.