As we reported on Tuesday, the sad news has come through of the passing of one of Australia’s greatest ever singers, Jeff St John.
One of Australia’s leading stars from the mid-‘60s through to the mid-‘70s, Jeff will no doubt be remembered by anyone who listened to pop radio at the time, but it was those who witnessed him live who, we believe, will have the most vivid memories. Memories of a superb and deeply soulful singer and bandleader who put it all on the line on stage, pushing himself – in spite of his physical incapacitation – and his music ever forward. In that decade-long period, St John’s music developed from straight ahead but incredibly powerful American-style soul with the Id into a wide-ranging and progressive style taking in rock, blues, jazz and soul with Yama, Copperwine (and fellow singer Wendy Saddington) and the Jeff St John Band, before coming full circle back to the gritty R’n’B of his hit solo cover of Frankie Miller’s “A Fool In Love” in ’77.
Early on, with the Id, he supported the Yardbirds who at the time featured Jimmy Page on guitar; we’ve heard it from good sources that Page was knocked out by Jeff and was still keen to talk about him with an Australian fan as recently as a couple of years ago.
Jeff’s career continued beyond 1977 of course, but like so many earlier artists he was swept aside by bright and shiny new pop things and he announced his retirement in 1983, having no doubt made his mark on younger generations of singers, including Jimmy Barnes and Michael Hutchence. He moved to Perth in the late ‘90s and started playing over there early in the new century. Sadly his health issues stopped him from returning properly to the national stage. Just last year he published his acclaimed autobiography and a volume of poetry, both of which are available directly from publishers Starman Books.
ILYOS figures the best way to pay tribute to this remarkable artist is to revisit some of his classic performances and records, so that’s what we’ve got for you here. We’ll finish off with a 25 minute documentary from 1980 on Jeff, produced for Channel 7’s The Australians by the late Peter Luck, and then a rare hour-long interview from 2014, with Soozie Pinder (together with Wendy Stapleton and legendary guitarist Phil Manning) of Melbourne’s Channel 31 music program Wrokdown.
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