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Slim Dusty (1927–2003)

Slim Dusty, by Don McMurdo, 1984

Slim Dusty, by Don McMurdo, 1984

National Library of Australia, 23356315

Legendary country music entertainer Slim Dusty has died aged 76.

Dusty passed away at his home at 9.46am (AEST) today after a protracted battle with cancer, EMI marketing manager Chris O'Hearne said.

Prime Minister John Howard said Slim Dusty was a one-off and a great Australian icon.

He said the legacy of the singer was a very distinctive Australian brand of country music.

"He really created that himself," Mr Howard told journalists.

"We'll always remember that special style, epitomised really by A pub with no beer, the first Australian song to acquire gold record status.

"But it was the distinctive Australian character that he brought to country music that marked him out and for almost six decades he's been an institution in this country and won such affection and renown.

"He was a one-off, a great bloke in the proper sense of that expression and a great Australian figure and icon."

Mr Howard said he extended his sympathy, on behalf of all Australians, to his widow Joy and children Anne and David.

Dusty's death was like the loss of a father for rising music stars, music historian Glenn A Baker said.

He said Dusty was "intrinsically and unapologetically Australian" and despite his age and ailing health it seemed impossible that he had passed away.

"He was still making albums that won awards, he was still making albums that were selling large numbers of copies, he was still a very active and competitive country music performer," Mr Baker said.

He said he would be greatly missed by every Australian, particularly Indigenous communities who relished Dusty's dedication to taking his music to some of the most remote parts of the country.

Dusty also had a profound effect on most of Australia's younger country music stars, many of whom would feel like they've lost a father today.

"So many of the other rising stars of Australian music, they all considered it the most enormous honour to be given the opportunity to record a duet with him or perform on stage with him.

"In some ways it's going to be like the loss of a father ... there were always the moments that reflected that."

One of those was when the now-queen of country music, Kasey Chambers, arrived at her first ARIA awards where she won her first award.

"She arrived at the ARIA awards and walked up the red carpet arm-in-arm with Slim Dusty, it was just wonderful."

Fellow country music singer Adam Harvey said when he first began singing he had wanted to be Slim Dusty.

"I was a young kid getting around I remember with my moleskin jeans and my Akubra on, trying to be like Slim - I think every kid at one stage or another that sings country music has looked up to Slim and wanted to follow in the path that Slim's taken," he told ABC Radio.

Born David Gordon Kirkpatrick in 1927 in Kempsey, on the NSW mid-north coast, he wrote his first song The Way the Cowboy Dies at the age of 10.

A year later he changed his name to Slim Dusty and later went on to record a string of hits including The Pub With No Beer the biggest selling record by an Australian.

He was the first Australian to receive a Gold Record, the first to have an international record hit, and the first singer in the world to have his voice beamed to earth from space.

In June this year, Dusty was recording his 106th album and at the time his management denied he was battling cancer.

Dusty had his left kidney removed after a cancerous tumour was detected in November 2001 and received continuous treatment.

His wife Joy, son David and daughter Anne were at his bedside when the 76-year-old singer passed away at his home in Sydney, Mr O'Hearne said.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Dusty, Slim (1927–2003)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dusty-slim-33574/text41971, accessed 15 June 2024.

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