|Birth name||Gregory Norman Ham|
27 September 1953|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Died||19 April 2012
Carlton North, Victoria, Australia
|Occupations||Musician, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter|
|Instruments||Saxophone, percussion, flute, keyboards, organ, synthesizer, piano, guitar, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Men at Work, Relax with Max|
Gregory Norman "Greg" Ham (27 September 1953 – 19 April 2012) was an Australian songwriter, actor and saxophone player known for playing multiple instruments in the 1980s band Men at Work. In addition to the saxophone, he played flute, organ, piano and the synthesizer.
Ham was born in Melbourne and attended Camberwell Grammar School from 1964 to 1971. According to the school's year books, he was remembered for his acting talent in school plays, particularly The World We Live In (the insect comedy) in 1969 where he played the "parasite". In 1970 he played Mr Seekamp, editor of the Ballaarat Times, in Lola Montez and, in 1971, Puff in The Critic. In 1967 Ham was photographed airborne by J. Jones in a still photo which won first prize in the Ilford Competition.
With Men at Work
In 1972, Ham met and befriended Colin Hay via mutual friend Kym Gyngell and, in 1979, joined the original lineup of Men at Work with Hay, Ron Strykert and Jerry Speiser. Ham and Hay formed the core of the band from 1979 until 1985 when Ham left, with the band disbanding shortly afterward. Ham returned to Men at Work when they reformed in 1996 to tour the United States.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Ham played saxophone, keyboards, flute and harmonica for the group as well as performing vocals. He performed the saxophone solo in the song "Who Can It Be Now?" (a rehearsal take was used in the final mix) and improvised the flute riff in the song "Down Under". In 2009, music publisher Larrikin Music, then headed by Norman Lurie (now retired), sued Men at Work and their record label EMI for plagiarism, alleging that the flute riff copied the 1934 nursery rhyme "Kookaburra", to which they owned the publishing rights. The Federal Court of Australia ruled that "Down Under" did infringe the copyright of "Kookaburra" and awarded Larrikin 5% of the song's royalties backdated to 2002. Several appeals by EMI and Men at Work were unsuccessful. In an interview with The Age newspaper, Ham said that he was deeply affected by the judgment and felt it had tarnished his reputation, saying: "I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered—for copying something."
Later activity and death
Ham played brass and keyboard with the R&B band Relax with Max, with frontman Max Vella, girlfriend Linda "Toots" Wostry, on saxophone, James Black on keyboard, David Adam and Ross Hannaford on guitar and John James "JJ" Hackett on drums. Relax with Max played at the Metropol in Fitzroy and on ABC's television comedy While You're Down There and at the Falls Creek music festival. They supported Australian artists including Kylie Minogue and American soul singers James Brown and Bo Diddley.
Ham was found dead on 19 April 2012 at his home in Carlton North, Melbourne, after committing suicide; friends had been unable to contact him for a few days and went to his house to investigate. According to an article on the website of his friend and bandmate, Colin Hay, Ham's suicide was brought on by the devastating effect which the Federal Court of Australia ruling regarding the 2009 plagiarism lawsuit concerning Down Under had on him. An obituary for Ham by Glenn A. Baker appeared in The Age newspaper on 24 April 2012. Ham's private funeral was held at the Fitzroy Town Hall, in Melbourne, on 2 May 2012.
- Gallery of Achievement: Mr Greg Ham (1971), Old Camberwell Grammarians′ Association, 2008.
- "Cops remain at home of Men At Work star Greg Ham who was found dead in Melbourne". news.com.au. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Northover, Kylie; Chris Johnston (20 April 2012). "How the song turned sour for a 'beautiful man'". The Age. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Mathieson, Craig (1 March 2013). "Entertainer at work (Sydney Morning Herald)". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Cook, Henrietta (19 April 2012). "Greg Ham found dead in house". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Baker, Glenn A. (24 April 2012). "Down Under instrumentalist blew away listeners". The Age. Retrieved 24 April 2012.