Greg Ham

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Greg Ham
Men At Work 1983 (Greg Ham).jpg
Ham in a 1983 photoshoot with Men at Work
Background information
Birth nameGregory Norman Ham
Born(1953-09-27)27 September 1953
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died19 April 2012(2012-04-19) (aged 58)
Carlton North, Victoria, Australia
Genres
Occupation(s)Musician, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, actor
Instrument(s)
  • Keyboards
  • saxophone
  • flute
  • harmonica
  • guitar
Years active1979–2012
LabelsEMI

Gregory Norman Ham (27 September 1953 – 19 April 2012) was an Australian musician, songwriter, and actor, best known as a member of the 1980s band Men at Work. He played saxophone, flute, organ, piano, and synthesizer.

Early life[edit]

Ham was born in Melbourne and attended Camberwell Grammar School from 1964 to 1971.[1] 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".[2] In 1970 he played Mr Seekamp, editor of the Ballarat 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.

Career[edit]

Men at Work[edit]

In 1972, Ham met Colin Hay via mutual friend Kym Gyngell. In 1979, he joined the original lineup of Men at Work with Hay, Ron Strykert, and Jerry Speiser.[3] Ham and Hay formed the core of the band from 1979 until 1985 when Ham left, and the band broke up shortly afterward. Ham returned to Men at Work when they reformed in 1996 to tour the United States.[4]

Ham played saxophone, keyboards, flute, and harmonica for the group, as well as performing backing vocals. He sang lead vocals on songs such as "Helpless Automaton" and "I Like To." Ham also 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".[citation needed]

Lawsuit and plagiarism accusation[edit]

Larrikin Music bought the rights to the 1930s children's song "Kookaburra" in 1990 for $6,100. 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 he was deeply affected by the judgment and felt it tarnished his reputation, saying: "I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered—for copying something."[5] Colin Hay, Ham's childhood friend and bandmate chooses, however, to remember Ham as “a great, great friend and a great guy” who was a "very inspired and instinctive" musician."[6]

Later career[edit]

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.[citation needed] Ham also performed regularly with jazzy ensemble Miss Dorothy and His Fools in Love. Later in life, Ham taught guitar at Carlton North Primary School and assessed music students for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).[4]

Death[edit]

Ham was found dead on 19 April 2012 at his home in Carlton North, Melbourne. Several newspapers listed the cause as a heart attack. There have been allegations that Ham had a long battle with heroin addiction, and the cause of death is still being debated. It is known that he was depressed and suffering anxiety over the copyright lawsuit filed against him and the members of Men At Work for the alleged similarities between "Kookaburra" and the flute riff in "Down Under".[7][8][9]

Ham's private funeral was held at the Fitzroy Town Hall in Melbourne on 2 May 2012.[10] Ham was survived by his two children.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gallery of Achievement: Mr Greg Ham (1971), Old Camberwell Grammarians′ Association, 2008.
  2. ^ Baker, Glenn A. (23 April 2012). "Down Under instrumentalist blew away listeners". The Age. Archived from the original on 29 April 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  3. ^ Holmgren, Magnus; Warnqvist, Stefan. "Men at Work". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b "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.
  5. ^ Northover, Kylie; Chris Johnston (20 April 2012). "How the song turned sour for a 'beautiful man'". The Age. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Interview: Men At Work". Classic Pop Magazine. 10 September 2019. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  7. ^ Mathieson, Craig (1 March 2013). "Entertainer at work (Sydney Morning Herald)". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  8. ^ Cook, Henrietta (19 April 2012). "Greg Ham found dead in house". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  9. ^ Pena, Shirley (19 April 2014). "Remembering Greg Ham: 1953–2012". examiner.com. Archived from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ a b "Crowd Gathers to Farewell Men at Work's Greg Ham at Funeral". news.com.au. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2014.

External links[edit]