Sunday, March 4, 2007

Somewhere over the rainbow, Billy can hear this

It began with a minute's silence for a man renowned for amplified live shows, but the volume of yesterday's memorial service would not have disappointed Billy Thorpe.

A crowd of 7000 family, friends and fans gathered at the Entertainment Centre for Over the Rainbow, a tribute that ran over time and overflowed with the memories and music of the rocker who died on Wednesday after a heart attack.

Outside the service generations of Australian entertainers - from Stevie Wright, Billy Birmingham and John Paul Young to the Midnight Oil frontman turned Labor MP, Peter Garrett, and the country singer Melinda Schneider - shared their memories of Thorpe.

"More than anyone he believed in me," said Schneider, who wrote several songs with Thorpe. "I can't believe he is gone."

Inside on the stage his coffin was covered with flowers and flanked by seven guitars, while the Reverend Bill Crews led the crowd in a prayer for Thorpe's widow, Lynn, and his daughters Rusty and Lauren.

Speeches and bittersweet yarns followed from the musician's friends, the actors Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson, the journalist George Negus and the singer Little Pattie, who each paid tribute to Thorpe's larrikin humour and generosity, and his music.

"It started loud and it got louder," Thompson said, before summarising the feeling of most in the room.

"Fortunately for us, a lot of it is recorded and what isn't recorded is in our hearts ... but in my heart a desolate howl still echoes, we have lost a loved one."

The music promoter Michael Chugg, who was Thorpe's manager, read tributes from Yothu Yindi and Angry Anderson. He finished his tear-choked speech with: "Don't be too hard on Elvis, Lennon and Hendrix when you tell them you have arrived to take over the band."

Musical tributes came from Max Merritt, with a rendition of Slipping Away from Me and Olivia Newton-John with Over the Rainbow.

But it was the clips of Thorpe's live performances that had the crowd on their feet, clapping their hands to Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy), cheering the tickertape shower during a clip from the "Long Way to the Top" tour and wiping away tears to a song from his yet-to-be-released album Tangiers.

Lyrics from the song Thorpe had dedicated to his mother, "since you've been gone, I really miss you ..." took on new meaning for the mourners.

As the coffin was carried off the stage, the silence was broken by shouts from the fans: "We will miss you Bill"; and "Give 'em hell".

Earlier in the week, Chugg emphasised the service would not be a rock concert. But with a venue full of rock musicians and fans, the send-off for a "pioneer rocker" who spent four decades making music was never going to be quiet.

4 comments:

Edward said...

I am sure Billy is smiling reading this also.

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Stella Finds Great Things said...

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