A tribute to Michael Gudinski
. A leading figure in the Australian Music Industry
Gudinski was mostly known for forming the highly successful Australian record company Mushroom Records
through which he signed several generations of Australian musicians and performers ranging from MacKenzie Theory
, the Skyhooks
, The Choirboys
, Kylie Minogue
, and New Zealand's Split Enz
to newer artists such as Eskimo Joe
and others, forging a string of successful releases by local artists.
Michael Solomon Gudinski AM was an Australian entrepreneur and businessman based in Melbourne who was a leading figure in the Australian music industry.
Born:Michael Solomon Gudinski, August 22, 1952, Caulfield, Victoria, Australia
Died:March 2, 2021, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation:A&R executive, concert promoter, film producer, backing vocalist
The sound hits you in the chest first. A blow to the sternum, then a fizzing in your ears, then the air around you palpably thickens as the drums and the bass find their place together.
The sound is heavy. It has weight and when it's rock music played unrestrained by one of Australia's greatest, it feels like someone has placed the electric pads on your chest and shocked you back into life, dammit.
Arena music is like nothing else. Bombastic, strutting and loud, loud. It's meant to hurt a bit and drag you to your feet. And there was me, sitting, and I was only still in my seat because this was supposed to be an official state memorial service for a man just as bombastic and loud as the music Jimmy Barnes was cranking out, gone far too young, at the height of his powers, and all I wanted to do was dance.
Michael Gudinski was the animating force behind so much music in this country for more than 40 years and here he was, bringing stadium music back to life even while we mourned the loss of his.
The timing was dreadful: to lose him just as he was one the most important forces bringing performed music back to life in this city, in this country. But the timing was also just so right — this was exactly what we needed, finally back in the Rod Laver Arena and the place was starting to move.
It's becoming a little less impossible to imagine that the pulsing life of this glorious city might just return, and it may well turn out to be one of Gudinski's greatest achievements that he left us with this hope.
He was a charming, funny, difficult, argumentative, slightly crazy guy who always made you feel that as much as you loved and lived for music, his heart beat for it so much stronger than yours. I interviewed him when I was a young and foolish rock writer, I interviewed his artists and reviewed his records and only a few years ago I danced with him — as only middle-aged music fans can — as Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band smashed the night.
When told in words and pictures and slightly faded 1970s video, Gudinski's achievements are really quite astonishing. The bands, the records, the events, the fund raisers, the tours, the artists — the soundtrack not just of our lives but of all of late 20th-century rock music. His energy unmatched, his stubbornness unyielding. It really was some life, and it was a life that ceaselessly pumped music into ours. I think the magnitude of it will only become clearer in the years without him.
Jimmy Barnes was one of his oldest, closest friends. They fought like brothers, they loved like brothers. He told me his wife suggested maybe he shouldn't play too loud for the old people in the memorial audience, but he said to her "I am the old people! This is Michael's party!"
I've always believed that funerals are not for the dead, but for the living, and that the afterlife is actually the new chance at living a better, more true life that we are given with every loss we experience. I sit at funerals wondering if I am living a life that could be described as well as the one I am hearing. Am I living up to the possibilities that a life lived well provides?
I never like the eulogies that turn the dead into saints, and Gudinski was not one of them. You don't create a powerhouse and dominant music business without falling foul of many along the way.
But the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau, who gave a quite magnificent speech to start the memorial, put it best when she quoted US president Theodore Roosevelt's celebrated 1910 speech, The Man in the Arena, about those who show up, those who do the work, saying that the credit belongs to the man in the arena:
"...who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
When at last the pull of the music was too great, and we were all on our feet, standing in that arena filled with music made by the many creative Australians who have shown up decade after decade to make their mark, the achievement of Michael Solomon Gudinski was made plain, that the music lasts, that art lasts — the only immortality we share.
Tribute written by Virginia Trioli,