Judith Durham

Judith Durham AO (Judith Mavis Cock, born 3 July 1943) is an Australian singer, songwriter and musician who became the lead singer of the Australian popular folk music group The Seekers in 1963.

Judith Durham
Durham in 1970 (Allan Warren)
Background information
Birth nameJudith Mavis Cock
Born (1943-07-03) 3 July 1943
Essendon, Victoria, Australia
  • Singer
  • musician
  • composer
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • tambourine
Years active1962–present
Associated acts

The group subsequently became the first Australian pop music group to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and the United States, and have sold over 50 million records worldwide. Durham left the group in mid-1968 to pursue her solo career. In 1993, Durham began to make sporadic recordings and performances with The Seekers, though she remains primarily a solo performer. On 1 July 2015, she was named Victorian of the Year for her services to music and a range of charities.

Early life

Durham was born Judith Mavis Cock in Essendon, Victoria, to William Alexander Cock DFC, a navigator and World War II pathfinder, and his wife, Hazel (née Durham). From her birth until 1949, she lived on Mount Alexander Road Essendon and attended Essendon Primary School. She spent summer holidays at her family's weatherboard house (which since has been demolished) on the west side of Durham Place in Rosebud.

Her father accepted work in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1949. The family lived in Taroona, a suburb of Hobart, from early 1950 where Durham attended the Fahan School before moving back to Melbourne, residing at Georgian Court Balwyn in 1956. She was educated at Ruyton Girls' School Kew and then enrolled at RMIT.[1]

Durham at first planned to be a pianist and gained the qualification of Associate in Music, Australia (AMusA), in classical piano at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium. She had some professional engagements playing piano and also had classical vocal training and performed blues, gospel and jazz pieces. Her singing career began one night at the age of 18 when she asked Nicholas Ribush, leader of the Melbourne University Jazz Band, at the Memphis Jazz Club in Malvern, whether she could sing with the band. In 1963, she began performing at the same club with Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers, using her mother's maiden name of Durham. In that year she also recorded her first EP, Judy Durham with Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers, for W&G Records.[2]

Durham was working as a secretary at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency where on her first day of employment she met account executive Athol Guy. Guy, who was in a folk group called The Seekers which sang on Monday nights at a coffee lounge called the Treble Clef on Toorak Road, in Toorak, asked Durham to join him and The Seekers.

The Seekers

The Seekers consisted of Durham, Athol Guy, Bruce Woodley and Keith Potger, the last being an ABC radio producer. It was through Potger's position that the three were able to make a demo tape in their spare time. This was given to W&G Records, which wanted another sample of Durham's voice before agreeing to record a Jazz Preachers' album. W&G instead signed The Seekers for an album, Introducing The Seekers, in 1963. (Potger does not appear on the album cover because he was not allowed to have a second job.) Durham, however, recorded two other songs with the Jazz Preachers, "Muddy Water" (which appeared on their album Jazz From the Pulpit) and "Trombone Frankie" (an adapted version of Bessie Smith's "Trombone Cholly").

In early 1964, The Seekers sailed to the United Kingdom on the S.S. Fairsky on which the group provided the musical entertainment. Originally they had planned to return after ten weeks, but they received a steady stream of bookings through the Grade Agency because they had sent the agency a copy of their first album. On 4 November 1964 at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, The Seekers recorded "I'll Never Find Another You" composed and produced by Tom Springfield and subsequently released in December 1964. In February 1965, the song reached number one in the UK and Australia, while their 1966 recording of Springfield and Jim Dale's "Georgy Girl" (from the film of the same name) reached number two (Billboard chart) and number one (Cashbox chart) in the United States.

In 1967, The Seekers set an official all-time record when more than 200,000 people (nearly one tenth of the city's entire population at that time) flocked to their performance at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. Their TV special The Seekers Down Under scored the biggest TV audience ever (with a 67 rating), and early in 1968 they were all awarded the nation's top honour as "Australians of the Year 1967".[3] On a tour of New Zealand in February 1968, Durham advised the group that she was leaving The Seekers and subsequently left in July 1968.[4]

Solo career

Durham returned to Australia in August 1968 and her first solo television special, 'An Evening with Judith Durham' screened on the Nine Network in September. During her solo career she has released albums titled For Christmas with Love, Gift of Song and Climb Ev'ry Mountain. In 1970 she made the television special, Meet Judith Durham, in London, ending with her rendition of "When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day" by Carrie Jacobs-Bond (1862–1946).[5]

In 1975 Judith starred in an acting and singing role as Sarah Simmonds, a burlesque type performer in "The Golden Girl", an episode of the Australian television series "Cash and Co." Set in the 1800s Australian goldfields, this episode also featured Durham's husband, Ron Edgeworth, on piano. She performed six songs including "Oh Susanna", "When Starlight Fades", "Maggie Mae", "Rock Of Ages", "There's No Place Like Home" and "The Lord Is My Shepherd".

During the 1970s she returned to traditional jazz and recorded Judith Durham and The Hottest Band in Town and Judith Durham and The Hottest Band in Town Volume 2 and in 1978, The Hot Jazz Duo. Durham performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1978, receiving a standing ovation in front of a crowd of 3,000. She then moved to Queensland and focused on her songwriting.

In 1994, Durham began recording albums again. Her 1994 album, Let Me Find Love peaked at number 8 in Australia. In 1996, she released a covers album, Mona Lisas, under the direction of producer Gus Dudgeon. This was re-released as Always There in 1997 with the addition of Durham's solo recording of fellow Seeker Bruce Woodley's "I am Australian" (with Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply and Mandawuy Yunupingu of Yothu Yindi) and the Smith Family theme song of the title. Her recording of "Always There" was first released on the 1997 double CD Anthems, which also featured Bruce Woodley's "Common Ground" and the Seekers' "Advance Australia Fair" arrangement.

In 2001, Durham did another Australian tour and in 2003 she toured the UK to celebrate her 60th birthday. Her birthday concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London was filmed and released on DVD in late 2004. The album was released on CD and download in 2014, titled Live in London. In 2006, The Seekers were awarded the "Key to the City" of Melbourne by Lord Mayor John So. As part of the ceremony, Durham sang part of her song "Seldom Melbourne Leaves My Mind" and was later invited by the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund to record the song, as a fund-raiser, with Orchestra Victoria.

The decision was then made to record The Australian Cities Suite with all proceeds from the sale of the CD to go to the charitable sector. The album was released in October 2008. The project was to benefit charities such as the Motor Neurone Disease Association of Australia (Durham is national patron) and Orchestra Victoria, in addition to other charities which benefit from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund or its national affiliated network United Way.

In 2006, Durham started modernising the music and phrases in the Australian National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair". She first performed it in May 2009 at Federation Hall, St Kilda Road.[6][7]

It was released on CD single. On 13 February 2009, Durham made a surprise return to the Myer Music Bowl when she performed the closing number at the RocKwiz Salutes the Bowl – Sidney Myer Music Bowl 50th Anniversary with "The Carnival is Over". On 23 May 2009, Durham performed a one-hour a cappella concert in Melbourne as a launch for her album Up Close and Personal.[8]

In October 2011, it was announced Durham had signed an exclusive international deal with Decca Records. George Ash, President of Universal Music Australasia said "It is an honour to have Judith Durham join Decca's wonderful roster of artists. When you think of the legends that have graced the Decca Records catalogue it is the perfect home to welcome Judith to, and we couldn't be more excited to work with Judith on not only her new recordings but her incredible catalogue as well."[9]

Between 2011 and 2016, Decca Records re-released Gift of Song and Climb Ev'ry Mountain, The Australian Cities Suite and Up Close and Personal (as An A Capella Experience) as well as two compilations and a new studio album, Epiphany.

In June 2018, to celebrate Durham's 75th birthday, a collection of 14 previously unreleased songs was released on the album So Much More.[10]

Personal life

On 21 November 1969, Durham married her musical director, British pianist Ron Edgeworth,[11] at Scot's Church in Melbourne.

They lived in the UK and Switzerland until the mid 1980s when they bought property in Nambour, Queensland. In 1990, Durham, Edgeworth and their tour manager, Peter Summers, were involved in a car accident on the Calder Freeway. The driver of the other car died at the scene and Durham sustained a fractured wrist and leg. The response from her fans made Durham consider getting back together with the other members of the Seekers for a Silver Jubilee show. It was during this reunion that Edgeworth was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. He died on 10 December 1994 with Durham by his side.[12]

In the late 1990s, Durham was stalked by her former personal assistant, a woman who sent her dozens of doormats through the post. The woman was subsequently prosecuted.[13]

In May 2013, during The Seekers' Golden Jubilee tour, Durham suffered a stroke which diminished her ability to read and write—both visual language and musical scores. During her convalescence she made progress to rebuild those skills. Her singing ability was not affected by the stroke.[14]

Solo releases

Studio albums

Compilation albums

Live albums

Extended plays


  • 1964 "Trombone Frankie" (Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers & Judy Durham) / "House Of The Rising Sun" (Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers & Helen Violaris)
  • 1967 "The Olive Tree"/"The Non-Performing Lion Quickstep" – UK No. 33[16]
  • 1967 "Again and Again"/"Memories"
  • 1970 "The Light Is Dark Enough" / "Wanderlove"
  • 1970 "Take Care of My Brother" / "Wanderlove"
  • 1970 "Let Me Find Love"/ "Music Everywhere"
  • 1971 "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" / "What Could Be a Better Way"
  • 1974 "I Wanna Dance to Your Music" / "Mama's Got the Blues" (with the Hottest Band in Town)
  • 1974 "It's Goin' to Be a Beautiful Day"/ "Chase Those Blues Away" (with the Hottest Band in Town)
  • 1974 "What'll I Do" / "The Hottest Band in Town" (with the Hottest Band in Town)
  • 1975 "Down by the Riverside" / "Chase Those Blues away" (with the Hottest Band in Town)
  • 1975 "I Love You" / "Gloryland"
  • 1992 "Australia Land of Today"
  • 1994 "A World of Our Own" (with the Seekers) UK: 76 [20]
  • 1994 "Georgy Girl (with the Seekers) UK: 79[20]
  • 1997 "I Am Australian" (with Russell Hitchcock and Mandawuy Yunupingu) AUS: 17
  • 1997 "Far Shore" (with the Seekers)
  • 1997 "Calling Me Home" (with the Seekers)
  • 1998 "Yil Lull" (as Singers For The Red Black & Gold)
  • 2009 "Advance Australia Fair"

Honours and awards


  1. Suzannah Pearce, ed. (17 November 2006). "Durham Judith Mavis". Who's Who in Australia Live!. North Melbourne, Vic: Crown Content Pty Ltd.
  2. Malt Creative. "Welcome to Judith Durham". Judith Durham. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  3. "About Judith Durham". Judith Durham. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  4. "The Judith Durham Story". Judith Durham. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  5. Durham, Judith (1970). "When you come to the end of a perfect day". Meet Judith Durham [television special]. London. Retrieved 3 April 2011. Song starts at 44 seconds into the video.
  6. "Advance Australian Fair new lyrics" (PDF). Shoalhaven. May 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  7. "Judith Durham's national anthem". ABC. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  8. "A Global First? A Cappella Solo Recitals - Judith's First Melbourne Concerts In 8 Years". Web.archive.org. 7 May 2009.
  9. "Judith Signed to Exclusive International Deal". Judith Durham. 11 October 2011. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  10. "Judith Durham celebrates her 75th birthday by releasing a new album". 2GB. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  11. "Body". Telinco.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  12. In 1994 her authorised biography Colours of My Life: The Judith Durham Story by Graham Simpson was first published by Random House Australia. The book was updated and reprinted in 1998 and 2000; in 2003 it was again updated when published by Virgin Books.
  13. Cauchi, Stephen (12 September 1998). "Durham's stalker loses appeal", The Age, p. 7.
  14. "Seekers singer Judith Durham learns to read and write after brain hemorrhage". ABC News. Sydney: Australian Broadcasting Company. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  15. "Chartifacts – Week Commencing: 28th November 2011". ARIA. Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  16. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 173. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  17. Malt Creative. "Judith Durham". Judith Durham. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  18. "australian-charts.com Discography Judith Durham". Hung Medien. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  19. "ARIA Chart Watch #481". auspOp. 14 July 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  20. "Official Charts Judith Durham". Official Charts. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  21. "It's an Honour". itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  22. "It's an Honour". itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  23. Queen's Birthday honours: Australians recognised for services to community. ABC News 9 June 2014. retrieved 9 June 2014.

Further reading

  • Simpson, Graham. Colours of my life: The Judith Durham story. Melbourne: Random House Australia, 1994, 1998, 2000; Virgin Books, 2004. ISBN 1-85227-038-1.

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