Rock star memorial send-off for Gudinski

·3-min read

Even in death Michael Gudinski could put on a show.

The who's who of Australian music and entertainment have turned out for Gudinski's state memorial service at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.

Singer Brian Mannix, Skyhooks guitarist Red Symons and former AFL star Nick Riewoldt were among the local celebrities in attendance to pay their respects to the late music industry icon.

On arrival, guests were able to take a memorial program resembling a record slip featuring photos of Mr Gudinski with many of the recording artists he championed over his illustrious career.

Aunty Joy Murphy performed the Acknowledgment of Country before Victorian Governor Linda Dessau opened tributes to Mr Gudinski, who died suddenly in his sleep on March 2 at the age of 68.

"He has been described as the founder of the Australian music scene, the godfather of the Australian music scene, a legend, a cultural icon, the ultimate music man, a force of nature and an amazing Victorian," Ms Dessau told the socially distanced crowd.

Premier Daniel Andrews was unable to attend while recovering from a fractured spine and broken ribs suffered in a fall earlier this month, but passed on a message.

"There are few people who have shaped our state like Michael Gudinski," MC Lee Simon said on Mr Andrews' behalf.

"From mobile dance halls to Festival Hall - music was his life's purpose."

Mr Gudinski's son Matt and daughter Kate talked emotionally of their father, as did TV personality Carrie Bickmore and rabbi Menachem Wolf.

"He was full of life and some would say he lived 10 lives in one," Matt Gudinski said.

British music star Ed Sheeran, who was granted an exemption to fly into the country with his family, headlined the live musical tributes.

The singer and songwriter opened with Castle On The Hill, saying it was a personal favourite of his close friend after playing it for him and wife Sue at their Port Douglas home in 2015.

"He must have misheard the lyric because he started, from that point, screaming whenever he saw me 'we were younger then'," Sheeran recalled.

"I never told him it was actually 'I was younger then'."

Alongside Sheeran, there were live performances by Mushroom associated local acts Jimmy Barnes, Kylie Minogue, Paul Kelly, Mark Seymour, Vika and Linda Bull and Mia Wray.

Before raising spirits with a Sheeran-aided duet of her 1987 hit Loco-motion, the Aussie queen of pop credited Mr Gudinski with kick-starting her meteoric rise.

"Michael, the 'Big G', took this little girl from Melbourne to the world and back home again," Minogue said.

Taylor Swift, Billie Joel, Elton John and Sting were just some of the international megastars to post video tributes aired on the night.

"We will cherish his memory. Shine on you crazy man," said Sir Elton, who trusted Mr Gudinski to oversee his final Australian tour last year.

Bruce Springsteen said Mr Gudinski was the last of a dying breed of music promoters.

"When you thought of Australia, you thought of Michael," the US rock legend said.

"He was a music man. Michael wasn't just excited about the receipts, he was excited about the show."

The 15,000-seat arena was packed for its first music event since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with those who missed out on tickets able to watch online.

To coincide with the service, the Australian Recording Industry Association announced the ARIA award for best breakthrough artist will be renamed in Mr Gudinski's honour.

Mr Gudinski was a godfather figure in the Australian music scene, having founded independent label Mushroom Records in May 1972.

Mushroom Records became the largest independent label in Australia's music history, expanding into touring, publishing and film and TV production.

Mr Gudinski is survived by wife Sue, children Matt and Kate and grandchildren Nina-Rose and Lulu.