The man who lived “10 lives in one” received a fitting tribute last night in a state memorial service that highlighted the passion and talent of Australia’s chief music man, Michael Gudinski.
Music legends Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, Mark Seymour and Mia Wray paid their respects at Rod Laver Arena last night.
Gudinski, 68, died in his sleep on March 2.
Australian music stalwart Barnes knew Gudinski for 50 years and paid tribute in a way only Barnes could – with an emotional setlist dedicated to his friend.
“Michael Gudinski was my mate. He was my brother. He was my partner in crime. We laughed. We fought. We cried together. We did everything together,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed throughout the night with family, friends and artists sharing the love that Gudinski had so often shared with them.
The appearance of Sheeran, who flew from the UK to mourn with Gudinski’s family, was a testament to the staying power of the legendary promoter’s relationships.
“I really, really appreciate the opportunity to say goodbye,” Sheeran said.
“He was just a tornado of joy. Everywhere he went he just lifted the room … and then f****d off.”
Sheeran finished his set in tears.
Video tributes rolled in throughout the night with international artists such as Taylor Swift, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl.
Amy Shark, DMA’s, Missy Higgins, The Rubens, Gordi and The Temper Trap were among a plethora of Australian artists commemorating the legacy of the music titan.
Unreleased songs from Sheeran (Visiting Hours), Barnes (Flesh and Blood) and Wray’s new single (Never Gonna Be the Same) all symbolised the monumental sense of loss.
A champion of Indigenous artists
Kelly shed light on Gudinski’s fierce dedication and loyalty to First Nations songwriters and artists.
“He believed that their music and storytelling and various perspectives were an important part of our national conversation,” Kelly said.
Archie Roach was signed to Mushroom records in 1990 and his debut album Charcoal Lane was released the following year under Gudinski’s watchful eye.
“Michael backed this record knowing full well that commercial radio wasn’t going to play it,” Kelly said.
Roach said the influence of Gudinski reached beyond the music and his support of First Nations people was unwavering.
“It was never about money, it was about heart and soul,” he said.
A week before he died Gudinski had the vision for an exclusively Indigenous headlined concert, which is in development with oversight from Kelly.
Leaps and bounds: the future for Australian music
Mushroom Group head of management Callum Wallace said Gudinski had left a blueprint of inspiration behind for younger people.
“Someone like Michael started what he did when he was 20 years old and I think there’s room for a whole new generation of people to be doing their own thing and building it into something like he did,” Wallace said.
“I think Matt (Gudinski) will fill a lot of the shoes of what Michael did. Obviously there’s only one Michael but Matt is really great as well and he’s of the new generation.”
Ivy Music Group head Jordan Acker said he was positive Australia’s music industry would survive in the absence of its most prolific and enigmatic figures.
“The scene is very strong,” Acker said. “I think Michael left it in a strong, steady direction,” he said.
“Specifically in Melbourne, night life is such a key element of its culture which is driven by the music industry.
“I feel in these kinds of industries there’s always going to be that ‘messiah’, although with or without them it’ll be strong regardless.”
The state memorial was attended by about 8000 people at Rod Laver Arena and streamed by more than 50,000 viewers on YouTube.
The bizarre start time of 7.07pm was a nod to Gudinski’s favourite red wine, Penfolds Bin 707.