Flute riff left a sour note for Ham
Greg Ham, who was found dead in his Melbourne home today, was the man behind the famous flute riff on Men at Work’s global hit Down Under.
Men at Work achieved international fame in the 1980s but Ham feared he’d end up being remembered mostly for the copyright dispute over the flute riff in their 80s hit Down Under.
A court in 2010 found the riff was unmistakably the same as Kookaburra, penned by Toorak teacher Marion Sinclair more than 75 years ago for a Girl Guides competition.
The decision left Ham shattered.
‘‘It has destroyed so much of my song,’’ he told Fairfax at the time.
‘‘It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that.
‘‘I’m terribly disappointed that that’s the way I’m going to be remembered - for copying something."
Men at Work’s recording company, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert were ordered to pay five per cent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.
Men at Work in October lost their final court bid to prove they did not steal the distinctive riff from the popular children’s tune.
Neighbour John Nassar said he knew Ham for about 30 years and the pair would stop and say hello.
‘‘He was a lovely human being, never judgmental about anyone, ’’ Mr Nassar said.
‘‘He was a very friendly human being.’’
Ham joined Men at Work in 1979 as a replacement for Greg Sneddon, playing flute, harmonica, saxophone and keyboards.
Down Under and the album it was on, Business As Usual, reached No.1 on the Australian, American and British charts in early 1983. That year, Men at Work won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Men at Work disbanded in 1985.