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Vincent James (Vince) Lovegrove (1947–2012)

by Anthony O'Grady

Vince Lovegrove, by Helen Lovegrove, c.1978

Vince Lovegrove, by Helen Lovegrove, c.1978

photo supplied by Helen Lovegrove

In 1967, Vince Lovegrove became a pop star as lead singer of the teen sensations the Valentines. He went on to mentor the careers of AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Divinyls and Jimmy Barnes. In 1985, while guiding Divinyls to success in America, he withdrew from the rock world to espouse HIV/AIDS awareness after his wife Suzi and newborn son Troy were diagnosed with the virus.

Tragically, Suzi, unaware she was HIV positive, had infected Troy in utero. Lovegrove made two documentaries; Suzi's Story in 1987, followed by A Kid called Troy in 1993. Both were widely used in international AIDS awareness programs to dispel public perception that AIDS was a ''gay disease''.

Vincent James Lovegrove was born on March 19, 1947, to Dudley Lovegrove and his wife, Betty (nee Fry). He grew up in the bushland Perth suburb of Applecross.

Dudley, who'd abandoned an ambition to be a writer for a lifetime of administration and accountancy, was determined that Vince would go through school and university. When Vince decided he'd rather join a band Betty was supportive but Dudley was enraged.

In 1966, after a succession of L-plate bands, Lovegrove formed the Valentines with Bon Scott on harmonies and second lead vocals. The group quickly established themselves as Perth's most aggressive rhythm and blues outfit.

In 1967, the Valentines travelled to Melbourne for the national finals of Hoadley's Battle of the Bands. They didn't place but were offered work on the bustling Melbourne dance and club circuit. A change of image and music from R&B to teenybop pop consolidated their popularity. In 1969, they placed third at the Battle and scored their biggest national hit, My Old Man's a Groovy Old Man. The song was co-written by Easybeats' guitarist George Young who, in 1974, would accept Lovegrove's recommendation of Bon Scott as lead vocalist for AC/DC, the band formed by George's young brothers Malcolm and Angus under George's watchful eye.

In 1970, the Valentines were busted for possessing marijuana. The group was suddenly too controversial for teen dances and disbanded.

Lovegrove moved to Adelaide. In 1972 he married Helen Corkhill. The couple ran a rock agency, Jovan, and Lovegrove hosted a Saturday morning television rock show, Move. He joined Adelaide's top-rated music station, 5KA, as a producer and managed local bands Cold Chisel and Stars. His guidance set both on the path to national stardom.

A daughter, Holly, was born in December 1975. In 1976 he had a seven-month stint in Sydney when radio station 2GB poached 5KA talent in an attempt to move the station from staid to innovative. The experiment, not an instant ratings success, was abandoned.

Back in Adelaide, Lovegrove developed the ambitious radio special Australian Music to the World, in which a rollcall of internationally successful acts explained how their training in Australia had prepared them for the world. In 1978 Lovegrove filmed the special as a television documentary. He moved to Melbourne as A Current Affair's reporter on youth issues and was promoted to producer of The Don Lane Show, the jewel in Network Nine's crown.

His marriage did not survive the high pressure and working hours essential for his new career. He and Helen divorced in 1979. In 1981, Lovegrove moved to Sydney, headquarters of the thriving Australian pub rock scene. Divinyls were a promising young band that lacked a killer punch in performance. Lovegrove insisted the band switch to aggressive rock and that singer Chrissy Amphlett don a provocative schoolgirl uniform.

From the beginning Lovegrove placed Divinyls as an international band, signing them direct to the Chrysalis label and setting up management offices in New York and Sydney. In New York he met the exotically named actress Suzi Sidewinder; the pair married after the birth of their son Troy in 1985 and the discovery that Suzi and Troy were HIV positive.

Lovegrove's resignation from Divinyls to care for Suzi and Troy reduced him to penury. Divinyls made good money touring but once Lovegrove went off the road, so did his only source of income. (Hearing of his plight, Jimmy Barnes couriered an envelope stuffed with thousands of dollars, with a note saying, ''Give the family a Christmas, mate''.)

Lovegrove hit every contact he had to raise finance for Suzi's Story in 1987. In 1993 he wrote the book A Kid Called Troy to accompany Troy's television documentary. Sadly, both Suzi and Troy died just weeks before their documentaries aired.

In 1993, coincidently, Jimmy Barnes was planning an assault on the UK/European festival circuit and asked Lovegrove to direct the attack. He accepted the offer, marrying new girlfriend Caroline Thompson in 1994. Their daughter Lilli was born in 1995.

Domestic bliss and the thrill of the road were short lived. By 1997, Caroline had left Vince and Lilli, while Barnes' international campaign was thwarted when his record company cut his touring support.

Lovegrove remained in London; raising Lilli, working as a journalist and researching a book on the life of INXS singer Michael Hutchence who, in 1997, died in mysterious circumstances, leaving behind the question: was it suicide or an accident?

The book, Michael Hutchence – a tragic rock 'n' roll story, was published in Australia in 1999. Publication in the UK and serialisation in The Mail on Sunday followed. Then Paula Yates, Hutchence's partner, sued all parties. Lovegrove had quoted a friend of Yates who claimed that Yates had become pregnant to Hutchence to sustain her relationship with the singer. Yates won the case, receiving an undisclosed settlement.

Lovegrove continued to work in London. Then, in 2005, he and Lilli relocated to Australia, settling in Rosebank (between Lismore and Byron Bay), where his daughter Holly lived. He sought and found work as a journalist but his major preoccupations were the raising of Lilli and re-bonding with Holly.

He returned to music, forming the Mongrels of Passion with Australian guitar legend Tim Gaze (Tamam Shud, Ariel). Writing and playing music, he said, fulfilled him as management and journalism never had.

Yet it is as a manager and mentor he is best remembered.

''Vincent Lovegrove was a rock 'n' roll artist's dream,'' said Chrissy Amphlett. ''He had a PhD in rock. I am so grateful to have had him in my life and career.''

Ultimately, it was Lovegrove's passion for music and performance that inspired the artists he mentored.

Vincent Lovegrove is survived by his mother, Betty, sisters Christine and Sue, daughters Holly and Lilli, sons Jason and Jo and grandsons from Holly, Marlon and Arlo.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anthony O'Grady, 'Lovegrove, Vincent James (Vince) (1947–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

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