Godfather of Australian rock’n’roll Michael Gudinski honoured at state memorial in Melbourne

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Godfather of Australian rock’n’roll Michael Gudinski honoured at state memorial in Melbourne

Words By Chloe Waddell

Michael Gudinski’s State Memorial was no less than an epic celebration of a life that was lived to the fullest, and that impacted the lives of so many others.

Everyone who has listened to, supported, or seen live music in Australia, has most certainly been witness to the extravagant work of Michael Solomon Gudinski AM.

Gudinski was arguably one of the most influential Australians in terms of their work in music production, being the founder of the Mushroom Group, which is the largest and most successful independent entertainment and music group within Australia and New Zealand. The Mushroom Group began in the 1970s, and since encapsulates Frontier Touring, Mushroom Records, Mushroom Pictures, Premier Artists, and Good Life, just to mention a few of the more-than-twenty brands within the group.

With artists such as Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, The Angels, Daryl Braithwaite, Elton John, and Ed Sheeran being represented in some way by the companies within the Mushroom Group, the work of Michael Gudinski reaches most every music lover within Australia.

It was his infectious can-do attitude and widespread impact, that led to a State Memorial being held for him on March 25, 2021 in Melbourne.

Michael Gudinski passed away on March 2, 2021, at the age of 68 years. His passing not only left a wake in the music industry worldwide, but of course left an even bigger one within his own beloved family. His cherished wife Sue, and his two children, Matt and Kate, were in attendance at Rod Laver Arena, alongside dignitaries, colleagues, friends, and supporters.

The evening began with a recording of Forever Young, which was a poignant beginning to an important service. Beginning at the awfully specific time of 7:07pm, it is rumoured that this was to pay homage to his favourite wine, Penfolds Bin 707. An acknowledgement of country was offered, and a tribute performed by Amos Roach on the didgeridoo, before the Australian National Anthem was performed by Mahalia Barnes.

Speakers on the night included Lee Simon (MC), Carrie Bickmore (OAM) and Rabbi Menachem Wolf. Both Matt and Kate Gudinski offered their memories of their father, with Matt promising that his father’s legacy will continue on through the work of the Mushroom Group, and Kate emotionally recalling precious moments they shared together. I could not help but to think how brave these two individuals are, to stand in front of an arena of people, on arguably one of the hardest occasions, and how truly privileged we were to be able to be part of that moment.

It would not have been a proper Michael Gudinski event without a star-studded line up of artists and live performers. Video montages were shown of various artists’ tributes, including those of Elton John, Missy Higgins, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting, while a range of performers took to the stage to share in the celebration of Gudinski’s life in person.

Each artist on the night not only shared their craft, but memories of Gudinski, which only further demonstrated the human-approach that he brought to his work – every artist mentioned in some way, shape, or form, how Gudinski made them feel and how they were part of his “Mushroom family”.

Jimmy Barnes took to the stage, performing a selection of works, both himself and with Mahalia. When the War is Over was a goose-bump inducing piece performed by the duo. Mia Wray performed Never Gonna Be the Same, the title of which summed up the feelings held by so many within the arena following the passing of the music icon. Paul Kelly was another favourite performer on the night, paying his respects to the man who championed an inclusive industry, as was Mark Seymour with Vika and Linda.

Ed Sheeran, whose close and heartfelt relationship with the Gudinski family was reflected by his immediate decision to fly from the UK to be with Michael’s loved ones, also performed a selection of songs on the night. Acoustic versions of Castle on the Hill and The A Team were offered by Ed, with the singer explaining that he was unusually nervous.

Ed shared a new song that he wrote during the last of his hotel quarantine, and explained that song writing is his way of processing the good and bad in his life. This new and unreleased song included the lyric “I wish that Heaven had visiting hours”, and it was a perfect tribute to his late friend and colleague. Ed briefly paused, part-way through, to collect himself and wipe his eyes. The raw emotion displayed in this performance, matched with Ed’s honest lyrics and enchanting melody, had me crying along with many others in the arena. It was a particularly striking reminder of the weight of Michael’s passing, and of the impact we can have on those around us.

Ed returned later to duet with Kylie Minogue, performing her classics All the Lovers and The Loco-motion. It was a match that we didn’t know we needed; much like hot chips dipped in soft-serve, it just worked. Kylie was noted as being one of the first women of the Mushroom Group, and she made no short mention of the impact Gudinski had on her career and personal life.

Overall, Michael Gudinski’s State Memorial was no less than an epic celebration of a life that was lived to the fullest, and that impacted the lives of so many others.

Every person in attendance was offered a record-like keep-sake which contained a program of events and a collection of images. The back of this faux-album cover writes “FOREVER #1”.

Michael Gudinski, you have forever changed the landscape of Australian music, and our accessibility to live entertainment. Not only did you reach the top of the ladder professionally, but you have been memorialised as a top Australian bloke.

To the man who will forever be Australian music’s number one, Michael Solomon Gudinski.