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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Andrew McArthur (Greedy) Smith (1956–2019)

by Andrew McMillen

from Australian

Of all the performers to have found themselves caught in the spotlight of popular Australian music, few seemed to have enjoyed themselves more than Andrew “Greedy” Smith, the singer, songwriter and keyboardist of Sydney band Mental As Anything.

As comfortable grinning in front of television cameras as he was on stage while the band played its distinctive style of new-wave music — which combined elements of pop and rock with Smith’s ear for tuneful keyboard tones — the frontman was a smartly dressed and magnetic figure who radiated with the joy of sharing his talents with audiences since the band formed in 1976.

Yet on Monday evening, Smith’s 43 years of smiling in the spotlight came to a sudden, tragic end when he suffered a heart attack while driving in Sydney in the midst of moving into a new home with his fiancee. The prompt arrival of an ambulance could not save him, and Smith died at the age of 63.

“Our grief and confusion at this time are little compared to what Andrew’s family will be feeling — our hearts and prayers go out to them”, wrote band manager Grant Bartlett on the Mental As Anything Facebook page on Tuesday.

According to his long-time bandmate Reg Mombassa, Smith’s ebullience was no act — it was just who he was.

“I’ll remember him as the most positive and cheerful person I’ve ever known,” said Mombassa, who played with Smith for more than 20 years. “It was inspiring to be (with) someone who, even when things were going badly or we were having problems, Greedy would find a bright side of it.”

The shock of Smith’s loss was all the more acute as it occurred between gigs: the band had performed in the NSW south coast town of Tathra on Saturday night, and was to perform in Melbourne on Thursday, followed by more shows booked in Queensland for the week after.

“I thought Greedy would outlast all of the Mentals, to be quite frank,” said Mombassa. “I guess it’s a pathetic thing to say, but he didn’t have to suffer for a long time. It was pretty quick: he had a heart attack, they got him to hospital and didn’t manage to save him.

“But let’s face it: so many of my musical colleagues have passed away, either in their 60s or younger. It’s a dangerous game that has many industrial hazards, unfortunately.”

Smith wrote many of Mental As Anything’s best-known songs, including the standout 1985 single Live It Up, which reached No 2 in Australia before becoming a hit overseas, including No 2 in Britain, after the track was used in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee.

Its other songs to reach the top 10 in Australia included If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? and Too Many Times — both from 1981 — as well as 1988’s Rock and Roll Music.

The band formed at a Sydney art school in 1976, when Martin Murphy — who performed as Martin Plaza — met fellow student Chris O’Doherty, aka Mombassa.

This founding pair of singer/guitarist was later joined by Smith, as well as Mombassa’s younger brother, Peter O’Doherty, on bass and David Twohill on drums.

Together, these five musicians formed the longest-lasting line-up, which released nine albums together between 1979 and 2000. Since then, Mental As Anything continued to tour and record with a range of players.

Its place in Australian music history was underscored in 2009, when the band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

With Plaza having retired from touring in 2015 due to undergoing chemotherapy, Smith had been the longest-serving member remaining in the line-up.

“When we left, we didn’t want to break the band up,” said Mombassa of he and his brother’s decision. “There was no bad feeling there; there was no ill will. We were happy for them to keep it going, and still were. So Greedy’s been keeping it going, and I’m afraid that’ll be the end of the live Mentals, I guess, which is a shame.”

According to Mombassa, Smith’s decency and generosity extended to paying an ongoing wage from the band’s touring profits to Plaza even in his absence, as well as being an organ donor in death.

His nickname of “Greedy” was derived from something that happened at a gig early in the band’s career, where he happily ate 16 pieces of chicken while continuing to play keyboards with one hand. The moniker stuck.

“He’ll be remembered for his songs, really, and for his live performances, because they brought such pleasure to people,” said Mombassa. “But he wrote a lot of hit songs that still get played. I was in the supermarket a few days ago and I heard a couple of their songs while I was buying the groceries. His work will carry on for quite some time, I hope.”

Just a few weeks prior to his sudden death, Smith and Plaza were both inducted into the Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame at an event in Sydney. When asked whether he thought he’d still be performing in 2019, Smith replied, “I don’t think any of us thought we’d live this long.

“I think the main thing that astounds me is that people know songs that we wrote. We made up these songs, and people know them now. I would never have got that.

“To have lived this long is a great thing.

“But to have made it this far, and people know your songs – particularly when you’re supposed to be arts students and painters? I’m not known as a painter, that’s for sure.”

Smith is survived by his son Harvey, fiancee Fiona Docker and brother Stuart.

Original publication

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Citation details

Andrew McMillen, 'Smith, Andrew McArthur (Greedy) (1956–2019)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

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