John Farnham

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Martin Francis

Early radio interview with John Farnham by EMI's Howard Gable. Courtesy: Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. NFSA title: 547729.

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Did you know
  1. John Worked as a plumber's apprentice after leaving school. After being discovered by manager Darryl Sambell, he decided to take time off from plumbing to pursue a singing career. Needless to say, Farnesy never finished his plumbing apprenticeship.

  2. Whispering Jack, John's 12th studio album, is the highest-selling album in Australia by an Australian artist, having gone 24x Platinum.

  3. The name 'Whispering Jack' came about after John was introduced by a jazz club host in America as 'Jack Phantom'. Following that, he called himself 'Whispering Jack Phantom' while doing a running commentary of a local pub pool game. He was inspired by the nickname of 'Whispering' Ted Lowe, a famous snooker and billiards commentator on the BBC show Pot Black.

  4. Glenn Wheatley, John's manager, struggled to get 'You're the Voice', the first single from Whispering Jack, to play on the radio until the FM stations gave in to public demand. The song went on to reach number one on the Australian charts for seven weeks, while the album Whispering Jack stayed at number one for 25 weeks!

  5. During the recording of 'You're the Voice', John decided he wanted a bagpipe solo after being inspired by the AC/DC song 'It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)'. He and producer Ross Fraser also recorded a car door slamming in a garage for the sound of the drums in the song's intro.

Accessed (127/5/2014) The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

John Farnham is an iconic Australian singer known for his powerful voice and extensive career in the music industry. Born on July 1, 1949, in Dagenham, Essex, England, Farnham migrated to Australia with his family in 1959. He rose to fame in the late 1960s and has enjoyed a successful career spanning several decades.

Farnham began his music career as a teen pop idol in the late 1960s with the stage name Johnny Farnham. His first major hit was "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)" in 1967, which became one of Australia's best-selling singles of the decade. This song established him as a household name in Australia, although this early fame would haunt him in later years.

Despite his early success, Farnham's career experienced ups and downs throughout the 1970s. However, he made a remarkable comeback in the 1980s. His 1986 album "Whispering Jack" is one of the highest-selling albums in Australian history. The lead single, "You're the Voice," became an anthem and solidified his status as a major musical force.

Farnham has collaborated with various artists and bands over the years, This included the Little River Band in the early 1980s. His live performances are highly regarded, and he is known for his strong stage presence and connection with audiences. However Farnham would have had no idea how unrewarding the move to LRB would prove to be, they were a band that traded on solid three-part harmonies, they did not encourage their lead singer to do solos, or develop his stage persona, jokey cabaret-style audience interaction, the forte of both Shorrock and Farnham, was strictly forbidden by Graeham Goble.

To limit Farnham’s onstage moves his mic cord was drastically shortened and often his mike stand would be gaffer taped to the floor to prevent him from engaging too closely with the audience. By 1986 Capitol Records had dropped LRB from their roster and this hastened the departure of Farnham back to a solo career, he had done 385 live shows with the band, recorded three albums and toured the USA unrelentingly, but he had felt like a hired hand.

In Australia, both Farnham and Olivia Newton-John are celebrated as cultural icons. Their contributions to music and their charitable efforts have cemented their legacy in the country's cultural history. Their friendship and professional partnership are often cited as exemplary in the entertainment industry, illustrating how professional respect can blossom into lasting personal relationships. John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John have performed together on numerous occasions, often captivating audiences with their chemistry and vocal harmony. One of their notable collaborations is the song "Dare to Dream," which they performed together during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This performance was a significant moment in Australian entertainment history.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Farnham continued to release successful albums and tour extensively. Some of his other well-known songs include "Pressure Down," "A Touch of Paradise," and "Age of Reason." He has been awarded numerous accolades, including multiple ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards.

In recent years, Farnham has remained active in the music scene, occasionally performing and participating in various musical projects. Despite facing health challenges, including a diagnosis of a severe kidney infection and surgery for a cancerous growth, Farnham's legacy endures through his timeless music and the love of his fans.

John Farnham's career is a testament to his resilience, talent, and the deep connection he has with his audience, making him one of Australia's most cherished musical icons.

John Farnham and The late Glenn Wheatley had a successful business partnership and were great friends.(Supplied: Sony Pictures)

Wheatley was himself a musician – a bass guitarist for the rock band The Masters Apprentices. Farnham and Wheatley had the same manager who they both sacked, with Wheatley switching from bass to full-time management, taking over as Farnham's right-hand-man.

The late Olivia Newton-John and John Farnham