The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #151389   Message #3553777
Posted By: Sandra in Sydney
28-Aug-13 - 11:40 AM
Thread Name: Obit: Gary Shearston (1939-2013)
Subject: RE: Obit: Gary Shearston (1939-2013)
Obit in The Guardian

In the 1960s, the Australian singer-songwriter Gary Shearston, who has died after a stroke aged 74, recorded a run of highly regarded and influential albums mixing his original compositions and Australian folk tunes, and became known as the "Aussie Dylan". One of his songs, Sometime Lovin', became a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary; and in 1974 Gary had a worldwide hit with his cover version of Cole Porter's I Get a Kick Out of You (arranged by Jim Parker).

Gary was born in Inverell, New South Wales. When his father was away serving in the second world war, he lived for a while with his mother and grandparents in Tenterfield, in a house that Gary later bought and lived in until his death. After stints as a journalist, a puppeteer and a kids' TV presenter, he began writing and singing songs on the Sydney folk scene in the early 60s.

He signed a contract with Warners in 1968, at exactly the same time as Van Morrison; recently, Gary contributed to my book on Morrison, Hymns to the Silence (2010), discussing life, music and matters arising, and it was my good luck to remain in regular contact with him. A move to New York at the end of the 60s was marred for Gary when US immigration refused him a work permit because of his anti-Vietnam and pro-Aboriginal activities in Australia; and although he recorded an album for Warners, it was never issued.

He relocated to London and was signed to Charisma Records by Tony Stratton-Smith, recording his best-known album, Dingo (1974), which included I Get a Kick Out of You, a No 7 hit in the UK. Diminishing commercial returns saw him back in Australia by the mid-80s, recording songs such as the cherishable, cinematic memoir of a bush childhood Shopping on a Saturday, and writing an Aussie epic novel, Balkenna (1989).

He was still in demand on the folk circuit and combined playing and recording with duties as an Anglican minister in the area where he grew up, having been ordained in 1992. After he retired from the church in 2007, there came a late rush of writing, and he issued more than 100 songs in the last five years of his life, his final album (of 14) being The Great Australian Groove (2012).

Gary believed in the social and redemptive power of song, and he also knew a good tune when he heard it. His lyrics were literate, sometimes didactic but more often witty and wise, and his vocal was characterised by warm, unmistakably Aussie vowels. The DJ John Peel, a fan, noted that he could "sense the heat and wild friendliness of Australia" in Gary's voice.

He is survived by his wife, Karen, and children, Bonnie and Luke, all of whom he celebrated in song.