Jimmy Barnes

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Jimmy Barnes
Barnes in 2014
Barnes in 2014
Background information
Birth nameJames Dixon Swan
Born (1956-04-28) 28 April 1956 (age 67)
Glasgow, Scotland
OriginAdelaide, South Australia
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1973–present
Member of
Formerly of

James Dixon Barnes AO ( Swan; born 28 April 1956) is a Scottish-born Australian rock singer. His career, both as a solo performer and as the lead vocalist with the rock band Cold Chisel, has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.[1]

Barnes has achieved 15 solo number-one albums in Australia, more than any other artist. Additionally, Barnes achieved five more as the lead singer of Cold Chisel, bringing his combined sum to 20 number-one albums in Australia, comfortably eclipsing the Beatles (with 14), Madonna and Taylor Swift (12), Eminem and U2 (11).[2]

Early life[edit]

Barnes was born James Dixon Swan in the Cowcaddens area of Glasgow, the son of Dorothy and Jim Swan. His father was a prizefighter. His maternal grandmother was Jewish,[3] but he was raised Protestant. He called his childhood environment a "slum" of alcohol and violence, saying that his mother had him and his four siblings (John, Dorothy, Linda and Alan)[4] before she was 21.[5] His older brother, John, also later became known as a singer under the name Swanee. John encouraged and taught Barnes how to sing, as he was not initially interested. He and his family arrived in Australia, when he was five years old, on 21 January 1962. They originally lived in Adelaide, though they eventually settled in nearby Elizabeth.[6] Another sister, Lisa, was born later that year.[7] Shortly afterwards, their parents divorced. His mother remarried, to a clerk named Reg Barnes, who died on 3 September 2013.[citation needed] Jimmy adopted the name James Dixon Barnes,[8] after his stepfather.

Cold Chisel[edit]


Barnes took up an apprenticeship in a foundry with the South Australian Railways in 1973, but the love he and his brother had for music led him to join a band. In 1974, his brother Swanee[9] was playing drums with Fraternity,[10] which had just parted ways with the singer Bon Scott.[11] Barnes took over the role but his tenure with the band was brief and, in December 1975, he joined a harder-edged band called Orange, with the organist and songwriter Don Walker, guitarist Ian Moss, drummer Steve Prestwich and bass guitarist Les Kaczmarek.[12]

In 1974, Orange had changed its name to Cold Chisel and began to develop a strong presence on the local music scene. Barnes's relationship with the band was often volatile and he left several times, leaving Moss to handle vocal duties until he returned. After a temporary move to Armidale, New South Wales while Walker completed his engineering studies there, Cold Chisel moved to Melbourne in August 1976, and then three months later shifted base to Sydney. Progress was slow and Barnes announced he was leaving once again in May 1977 to join Swanee in a band called Feather. However, his farewell performance with Cold Chisel went so well that he changed his mind and decided to stay in the band. A month later, WEA signed the band.

Between 1978 and 1984, Cold Chisel released five studio albums and won numerous TV Week / Countdown Awards.[13] The band broke up in December 1983, its final performances at the Sydney Entertainment Centre running from 12 to 15 December 1983.

Solo career[edit]


In November 1979, Barnes met Jane Mahoney (born 1958 as Jane Dejakasaya in Bangkok, Thailand), the stepdaughter of an Australian diplomat. Barnes began a relationship with her. They married in Sydney on 22 May 1981 and Jane gave birth to their first child, Mahalia, named after Mahalia Jackson, on 12 July 1982.[14] They have four children (Mahalia, Eliza-Jane, Jackie and Elly-May - all musically known as The Tin Lids).

Barnes launched his solo career less than a month after Cold Chisel's Last Stand tour came to an end in December 1983. He assembled a band that included Arnott, the former Fraternity bass guitar player Bruce Howe[15] and guitarists Mal Eastick (ex-Stars) and Chris Stockley (ex-The Dingoes) and began touring and writing for a solo album. Signing to Mushroom Records, Barnes released his first single, "No Second Prize", in August 1984, which peaked at number 12 on the Australian charts. His first solo album, Bodyswerve, was released in September 1984 and debuted at Number One on the Australian charts. On 22 December 1984, days after Barnes had begun that year's Barnestorming tour, his second daughter, Eliza-Jane ("E.J.") was born.

Barnes's second album, For the Working Class Man, was released in December 1985 and included the tracks "I'd Die to Be with You Tonight" and "Working Class Man". For the Working Class Man debuted on the Australian national chart at No. 1 in December 1985 and it remained at No. 1 for seven weeks. Titled simply Jimmy Barnes in the US, the album was issued in February to tie in with the release of the Ron Howard film Gung Ho, which used "Working Class Man".

The Jimmy Barnes band that toured Australia in support of the album included Howe and Arnott, with the keyboard player Peter Kekell, the former Rose Tattoo guitarist Robin Riley and the American guitarist Dave Amato. With the release of the album in America, Barnes and a band of Canadian musicians hand-picked by his North American management team toured with ZZ Top. It was the first time since 1981 that he had toured without his family, as Jane was pregnant. Shortly after their son Jackie (named after Jackie Wilson) was born on 4 February 1986, she and the children joined him in the US for the rest of the tour.

In 1986, Barnes recorded two songs with INXS, a cover version of the Easybeats' "Good Times" and "Laying Down The Law", which he co-wrote with INXS members Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence. Both songs appeared on The Lost Boys (1987) soundtrack. "Good Times" was also used as the theme song for the Australian Made series of concerts that toured the country in the summer of 1986–87. Australian Made was the largest touring festival of Australian music talent that had ever been attempted to that point.[citation needed] Barnes and INXS headlined and the rest of the line-up was Mental as Anything, Divinyls, Models, The Saints, I'm Talking and The Triffids. The shows began in Hobart, Tasmania, on 26 December and concluded in Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January 1987. A concert film of this event was made by Richard Lowenstein and released later that year.[16] "Good Times" peaked at No. 2 on the Australian chart and No. 18 on the UK Singles Chart.

In October 1987, Barnes released "Too Much Ain't Enough Love", which became his first solo number-one single. His third album, Freight Train Heart, was released in December 1987 and peaked at number one. Freight Train Heart had moderate success outside Australia and as recently as 2003 was named as one of the top 100 rock albums of all time by the British magazine Powerplay.[citation needed]

In November 1988, Barnes released his first solo live album, Barnestorming, which became his fourth solo number one album. A version of the Percy Sledge standard "When a Man Loves a Woman" released from the album peaked at number 3.

In the middle of 1989, Jane Barnes went into Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney with pregnancy complications. Elly-May Barnes was born almost three months prematurely on 3 May. Her father stopped further writing and recording until she was released from a humidicrib several months later.[citation needed]


In 1990, Barnes recorded his fourth studio album, which featured songwriting contributions from the likes of Desmond Child, Diane Warren and Holly Knight. Two Fires, released in August 1990. debuted at number one on the Australian chart. The album featured the top-twenty singles "Lay Down Your Guns", "Let's Make it Last All Night" and "When Your Love is Gone".

In November 1991, Barnes released his fifth studio album, Soul Deep, an album of soul covers. Barnes had long fostered a love for soul and for black music, naming his children after influential black artists and including songs by Sam Cooke and Percy Sledge on previous albums.[citation needed] Soul Deep became Barnes's sixth Australian number-one album and included the track "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" with John Farnham.

In March 1993, Barnes released Heat, which was influenced by the then-current grunge trend and by the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.[citation needed] Heat peaked at number two on the ARIA charts, becoming Barnes's first solo album not to peak at number one. The album contained the song "Stone Cold", written by former Cold Chisel bandmate Don Walker. It marked the first time Jimmy Barnes had worked with any member of his old band for almost a decade. The pair teamed up for an acoustic version of the track for an unplugged album Flesh and Wood, which was released in December 1993 and peaked at number two. The album included a version, recorded with The Badloves, of The Band's "The Weight", which became a top-ten hit. Also in 1993, Barnes teamed up with Tina Turner for a duet version of "The Best" in the form of a TV promotion for rugby league's Winfield Cup. The single also reached the top ten in 1993.

In the mid-1990s, Barnes's career suffered a slump.[citation needed] He faced financial ruin as his music-publishing company Dirty Sheet Music and his wife's children's fashion label both went broke.[citation needed] He was pursued both by the ANZ Bank and by the Australian Taxation Office for amounts exceeding $1.3 million. The family sold their property in Bowral, New South Wales, and settled for some time in Aix-en-Provence, France, attracting some adverse publicity when Barnes assaulted a television crew from Channel 7.[17] While there, Barnes did considerable live work throughout Britain and toured with the Rolling Stones.[citation needed]

In June 1995, Barnes released his eighth studio album, Psyclone, which peaked at number 2 in Australia and featured the top-twenty single "Change of Heart".

In September 1996, Barnes released "Lover Lover", which peaked at number 6 on the singles chart. This was followed in October 1996 with Barnes's first greatest-hits compilation, Barnes Hits Anthology, which became Barnes's seventh solo number-one album.

In 1998, Cold Chisel reformed and Barnes returned to Australia with his family after three years in France.[18] In March 1999 Barnes performed the 1978 Sylvester hit "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" live onstage at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras annual party.

Later that year Barnes released the heavy-rock single "Love and Hate", followed by its parent album Love and Fear. An autobiographical record combining hard rock with electronic music, Love and Fear was Barnes's first album to miss the Australian top ten, peaking at number 22.


Barnes performing in 2006

In October 2000, Barnes performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.[19] In November 2000, Barnes released a second album of soul tunes, titled Soul Deeper... Songs From the Deep South. The album peaked at number 3 on the ARIA charts. A number of live albums followed with little commercial success.

In 2004, Barnes recorded an album with Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse, Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake, bass player Bob Daisley and keyboard player Don Airey under the name Living Loud. The self-titled album featured a number of songs originally written and recorded with Ozzy Osbourne by Kerslake, Daisley, and Airey.

In July 2005, Barnes released his eleventh studio album, Double Happiness, which debuted at number one on the ARIA Charts. Double Happiness was an album of duets, including several with his children, daughters Mahalia and Elly-May, son Jackie and oldest son, entertainer David Campbell. After its initial success, it was re-released as a double CD/DVD package featuring many of his duets from previous albums, including those with INXS, John Farnham, Joe Cocker, and Tina Turner.

Barnes was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame on 23 October 2005 for his solo career efforts. In late 2006, Barnes became patron of the Choir of Hard Knocks, a choral group formed by Jonathon Welch and consisting of homeless and disadvantaged people in Melbourne. The formation of the choir was documented by the ABC as a five-part series aired in May 2007.[citation needed] Barnes took an active part in the teaching of the choir despite his health problems and has even busked with them. Barnes or a member of his extended family have regularly performed "Flame Trees" with the Choir at their concerts including those at Melbourne Town Hall on 24 June and the Sydney Opera House on 17 July 2007.

In a January 2007 interview with The Bulletin, Barnes spoke passionately about Australian rock musicians saying: "Australian bands for me will always have the grunt. Grunt is what gives you longevity, strength, the power to believe in yourself. We have great bands here because they play live, they cut their teeth playing to people.".[20]

Barnes underwent heart surgery in February 2007.[21] On 7 July 2007 Barnes was a presenter at the Australian leg of Live Earth.[citation needed] In August he became a regular presenter on The Know, a pop culture program on the pay-TV channel MAX and has also been a presenter of the Planet Rock program on the Austereo network.[citation needed]

In September 2007 he started recording his twelfth studio album, Out in the Blue. Produced by Nash Chambers, it was released on 14 November and debuted at number 3 on the ARIA chart. The songs were written while he recovered from his heart surgery, and displayed a more subdued mood than much of his previous output. "When Two Hearts Collide" was a duet with Kasey Chambers. The album was promoted with a performance at the Sydney Opera House, which was released on CD and DVD. In March 2008, Barnes appeared as a special guest during soul singer Guy Sebastian's tour.

Barnes with Guy Sebastian, 6 March 2008 State Theatre

November 2008 saw the release of a duet with son David Campbell, a cover of The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" that featured on Campbell's album Good Lovin'.

In September 2009, Barnes released his thirteenth studio album The Rhythm and the Blues which became Barnes's ninth Australian number one album; thus giving him more No. 1 albums than any other Australian artist.[22]


In August 2010, Barnes released his fourteenth solo studio album, Rage and Ruin. Barnes stated that the ideas for most of the lyrics and song themes came from a journal he kept during a period in his life (late 1990s to early 2000s) when he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Rage and Ruin debuted at number 3 on the ARIA Charts on 5 September 2010.

On 27 September 2010, it was revealed that Barnes met two previously unknown adult daughters.[23]

Barnes with Cold Chisel in 2012.

On 14 March 2011 he planted a flame tree, made famous in Cold Chisel's 1984 song "Flame Trees", at the National Arboretum Canberra.[24] Barnes then headlined at Celebrate in the Park, playing a 90-minute set which included his solo hits and some Cold Chisel greats. He was joined by daughter Mahalia in a soulful rendition of "When the War Is Over", which he dedicated to the memory of Steve Prestwich.

In August 2014, Barnes released, 30:30 Hindsight, which is an anniversary album, celebrating 30 years since his chart-topping debut solo album, Bodyswerve. The album debuted at No. 1 in Australia, becoming Barnes's 10th solo No. 1 album.[25]

In 2015, Barnes asked the Reclaim Australia Political Party to stop playing his music at their rallies.[26] In July 2015, it was announced that Barnes would release Best of the Soul Years compilation. The album would be compiled of soul and R&B classics, from his three soul albums; "Soul Deep" (1991), "Soul Deeper" (2000) and "The Rhythm and the Blues" (2009).[27] A fourth album of soul covers was released in June 2016 called, Soul Searchin', which became Barnes's 11th number one album in Australia and tied Barnes the equal second-most (with Madonna and U2) of all time behind The Beatles at 14.[28]

In 2016, Barnes released his autobiography, Working Class Boy, which explored his traumatic childhood experiences.[29] In 2017, he featured in the song "Big Enough" by Kirin J. Callinan, alongside Alex Cameron and Molly Lewis. The song was featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in a comedic skit.[30][31] In addition to this, his cameo in the song's music video became a popular internet meme in late 2017.[32] In March of the same year, Barnes released a children's album called Och Aye the G'nu.[33][34] It won the ARIA Award for Best Children's Album at the ARIA Music Awards of 2017,[35] although the brand that appeared on the album, as well as the poetry books that were released on the first of April[36][37] are related to The Wiggles.

In November 2017, Barnes released a second memoir; a sequel to Working Class Boy titled Working Class Man. On 3 May 2018, Barnes won the biography of the year award at the Australian Book Industry Awards for the second year in a row.[38]

Barnes also guest-starred in the television comedy "These New South Whales" based on the Australian band.

His autobiography Working Class Boy was adapted into a film by Universal Pictures. Directed by Mark Joffe, the film premiered in Australian cinemas on 23 August 2018.[39] A soundtrack was released on 17 August 2018.

In January 2019, Barnes announced his forthcoming eighteenth solo studio album, My Criminal Record. It was released on 17 May 2019.[40] It was Barnes's 12th solo number-one album, and 16th when including releases with Cold Chisel on the Australian albums chart, making him the artist with the most chart-topping albums in Australian chart history, having previously tied at 11 number ones with Madonna and U2.[41] At the APRA Music Awards of 2020, "Shutting Down Our Town" was nominated for Most Performed Rock Work of the Year.[42][43]


In 2021, Barnes stated that he formed a rockabilly band with Slim Jim Phantom and Chris Cheney.[44]

In April 2022, Barnes announced the forthcoming release of Soul Deep 30, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Soul Deep, alongside a national tour.[45] In November 2022, Barnes released his first Christmas album, Blue Christmas.[46] It became his fifteenth number-one solo album.[2]

In March 2023, Barnes announced the formation of supergroup The Barnestormers, featuring Barnes, Chris Cheney, Slim Jim Phantom, Jools Holland and Kevin Shirley. A self-titled album was released on 26 May 2023.[47]

Personal life[edit]

Barnes is a practising Buddhist. He has seven children: four with his wife Jane (Mahalia, Eliza-Jane, Jackie and Elly-May – all musically known as The Tin Lids); one with Kim Campbell (a previous relationship), David;[48] and two daughters (Amanda and Megan) from two earlier relationships.[49]

He is brother-in-law to fellow musician and long-time collaborator Diesel, who married Jane Barnes's sister Jep in 1989.[50]

Barnes is a supporter of the Australian Labor Party,[51] as well as the Port Adelaide Football Club.[52]

On 28 November 2023, Barnes announced via Instagram that he was being treated in hospital for a bacterial infection. He remained in hospital for two weeks; on 12 December he announced, also via Instagram, that he was undergoing open heart surgery due to the infection having spread to an already-weakened valve.[53]


Cold Chisel[edit]

Barnes performing in 2011

Studio albums[edit]

Honours and significant awards[edit]

In 2017 Barnes was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the performing arts as a musician, singer and songwriter, and through support for not-for-profit organisations, particularly to children with a disability.[54]

AIR Awards[edit]

The Australian Independent Record Awards (commonly known informally as AIR Awards) is an annual awards night to recognise, promote and celebrate the success of Australia's Independent Music sector.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2022 Flesh and Blood Best Independent Rock Album or EP Nominated [55][56]

APRA Awards[edit]

The APRA Awards are held in Australia and New Zealand by the Australasian Performing Right Association to recognise songwriting skills, sales and airplay performance by its members annually.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2016[57] (Jimmy Barnes as part of) Cold Chisel Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music Awarded
2020 "Shutting Down Our Town" (featuring Troy Cassar-Daley) Most Performed Rock Work Won
2022[58] "Flesh and Blood" Nominated
2023[59] "Around in Circles" Nominated

ARIA Awards[edit]

Barnes has won seven Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards,[60] including his induction into their Hall of Fame in 2005.[61]

Year Award Nominee/work Result
1987 Best Male Artist "Good Times" (with INXS) Nominated
Single of the Year Nominated
Highest Selling Single Nominated
Producer of the Year Mark Opitz for INXS & Jimmy Barnes – "Good Times" Won
1989 Best Male Artist Barnestorming Won
1991 Two Fires Nominated
1992 Album of the Year Soul Deep Nominated
Best Male Artist Won
Highest Selling Album Won
Best Cover Art Nominated
Single of the Year "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" (with John Farnham) Nominated
Highest Selling Single Nominated
1993 Best Male Artist "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Nominated
1994 Flesh and Wood Nominated
Highest Selling Album Nominated
Single of the Year "Stone Cold" Nominated
1997 Highest Selling Album Hits Nominated
Best Male Artist "Lover Lover" Nominated
2005 Hall of Fame Jimmy Barnes Inductee
2008 Best Adult Contemporary Album Out in the Blue Nominated
2009 Best Music DVD Live at the Enmore Nominated
2010 Best Adult Contemporary Album The Rhythm and the Blues Nominated
2014 Best Rock Album 30:30 Hindsight Nominated
2016 Best Blues and Roots Album Soul Searchin' Nominated
2017 Best Children's Album Och Aye The G'Nu! Won
2018 Best Original Soundtrack or Musical Theatre Cast Album Working Class Boy: The Soundtracks Won
2019 Best Rock Album My Criminal Record Nominated

Country Music Awards of Australia[edit]

The Country Music Awards of Australia (CMAA) (also known as the Golden Guitar Awards) is an annual awards night held in January during the Tamworth Country Music Festival, celebrating recording excellence in the Australian country music industry. They have been held annually since 1973.[62]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2006 "Birds on a Wire" (with Troy Cassar-Daley) Vocal Collaboration of the Year Won

Helpmann Awards[edit]

The Helpmann Awards is an awards show, celebrating live entertainment and performing arts in Australia, presented by industry group Live Performance Australia since 2001.[63] Note: 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2015 30:30 Hindsight Greatest Hits Tour 2014 Best Australian Contemporary Concert Nominated [64]
2017 Working Class Boy: An Evening of Stories & Songs Best Cabaret Performer Nominated [65]

Rolling Stone Australia Awards[edit]

The Rolling Stone Australia Awards are awarded annually in January or February by the Australian edition of Rolling Stone magazine for outstanding contributions to popular culture in the previous year.[66]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2022 Jimmy Barnes Rolling Stone Readers' Choice Award Nominated [67]

TV Week / Countdown Awards[edit]

Countdown was an Australian pop music TV series on national broadcaster ABC-TV from 1974 to 1987, it presented music awards from 1979 to 1987, initially in conjunction with magazine TV Week. The TV Week / Countdown Awards were a combination of popular-voted and peer-voted awards.[13]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1980 himself Most Popular Male Performer Nominated
1984 Best Male Performance in a Video Won
Best Songwriter Nominated
1985 himself – "Working Class Man" Best Male Performance in a Video Won
1986 himself & INXS "Good Times" Best Group Performance in a Video Nominated
himself – "Ride the Night Away" Best Male Performance in a Video Nominated


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  66. ^ Barnes, Amelia (5 December 2011). "Rolling Stone Magazine Australia announces 3rd annual awards event". The AU Review. Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  67. ^ "Have Your Say in This Year's Rolling Stone Australia Reader's Choice Award". au.rollingstone.com. 17 January 2022. Retrieved 17 February 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Who's Who of Australian Rock – Chris Spencer, Paul McHenry, Zbig Nowara, 2002; ISBN 1-86503-891-1
  • Say it Loud with Alan Whiticker, Published by Gary Allen, Australia, September 2002; ISBN 1-875169-90-3
  • Icons of Australian Music: Jimmy Barnes – Scott Podmore. Published by Hyperactive Inc. 2008; ISBN 978-0-9804495-0-1
  • Fraternity: Pub Rock Pioneers - Victor Marshall, Published by Brolga Publishing, Australia, 2021 ISBN 978-1920785109

External links[edit]