AS tributes poured in from pop icons across the world for music industry legend Michael Gudinski, who passed away this week aged 68, his unsung role in supporting the Jewish community was also revealed.
Gudinski, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was a key figure in shaping the Australian music industry, establishing the Mushroom group in 1972 at the age of 20 and enjoying success as he discovered new talent for his records and brought some the world’s biggest acts to perform in Australia, ranging from Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli to the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney.
Many of the stars he worked with have paid heartfelt respects to the one-time Mount Scopus Memorial College student, including Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and the Foo Fighters.
#Breaking: Renowned Australian music promoter and record label founder Michael Gudinski has died, aged 68.He passed away peacefully in his sleep at home in Melbourne on Monday night.Vale, Michael.
Jimmy Barnes, who has previously spoken about his own Jewish roots, tweeted, “Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out,” adding, “Michael Gudinski was not only that heart but he was my friend. He stood with me through my darkest moments and my most joyous days. Michael was the rock I reached for when life tried to wash me away. He never closed his door to me or my family … He was there for everyone that needed him.”
Also paying tribute was Rabbi Menachem Wolf, director of Melbourne’s Spiritgrow Joseph Kryss Centre, who developed a personal friendship with Gudinski over the past five years.
“It was a massive shock to hear of his death,” said Rabbi Wolf. “He came to Spiritgrow on occasions, but usually we spoke on the phone. Michael helped out last year when we held the Lag b’Omer online 18for18 event and I asked him to organise singers for the event.
“He immediately went to work on the phone finding singers for us, and when I wanted to thank him with public recognition, he said, ‘No.’ This was a soulful thing for him. He had a sense of affiliation, but more on a personal level, which triggered a sense of Jewish belonging.”
More than 40,000 Jews in Australia, New Zealand and beyond logged onto the 18for18 cyberspace celebration.
As well as Mount Scopus, Gudinski attended Melbourne High School, where as a 15-year-old student he organised dances and earned $500 a week.
He got a part-time job with promoter Bill Joseph booking bands such as The Aztecs and Chain, and in year 11 decided to leave school and work for Joseph in the rock music business.
In 1972 Gudinski and new business partner Ray Evans were behind the successful Sunbury Festival where more than 35,000 fans paid $6 for a three-day ticket.
Staging concerts and managing rock groups was a dream job for Gudinski, much to the chagrin of his father Kuba, a successful builder who believed his son should follow a more acceptable career. So Gudinski left the family home to learn to stand on his own feet.
“I felt confident that I had taken the right step, as it was a big decision to leave school,” Gudinski told The AJN in a 2011 interview. “There were no regrets. You must go into it with a real passion and not just because you think it is glamorous.
“Like any business, it can be a real struggle as an entrepreneur. You can be the cool dude on the street and the artist’s pal, but if you can’t pay your bills you are a bum!”
In 1975 one of Gudinski’s bands, Skyhooks, released its debut album, Living In The 70’s, which at the time was the biggest-selling local album ever released, spending 16 weeks at the top of the charts and selling more than 240,000 copies.
Other music success stories continued as Mushroom Records’ stable of artists included Kylie Minogue, Archie Roach, Hunters and Collectors, Paul Kelly, The Angels and Yothu Yindi.
In the 2006 Queen’s Birthday honours Gudinski was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the entertainment industry through the promotion of Australian music recording artists, as an advocate for young people in the music industry, and to the community.
“I’m a proud Australian and it’s a great honour,” he told The AJN at the time, “but there are many more people who perhaps don’t have the high-profile, pop-star job who deserve it as much as I do.”
He was passionate about AFL and his beloved St Kilda, where he served a term as vice-president, and horse racing, where he was a part-owner in racehorses.
He won his first group one race in 2007 with Kibbutz, and in 2016 was the toast of the nation when Almandin, which Gudinski co-owned, won the Melbourne Cup.
He repeated the cup-winning thrill with Rekindling in 2016 and Twilight Payment in 2020.
Last year Gudinski developed the Music From The Home Front TV concert to showcase the local music industry as it struggled through COVID-19.