Judith Durham, who gained worldwide notoriety as the lead singer of The Seekers, died Friday at age 79. The Australian folk-pop pioneer died as the result of complications due to an extended battle with lung disease at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“This is a sad day for Judith’s family, her fellow Seekers, the staff of Musicoast, the music industry and fans worldwide, and all of us who have been part of Judith’s life for so long,” said Graham Simpson, a member of the band’s management team.
Many graciously paid their respects online, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who highlighted her kindness and legacy.
“A national treasure and Australian icon, Judith Durham gave voice to a new strand of our identity and helped blaze a trail for a new generation of Aussie artists,” wrote Albanese on Twitter. “Her kindness will be missed by many, the anthems she gave to our nation will never be forgotten.”
Durham’s bandmates Keith Potter, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy wrote on Facebook of her “intense and heroic” struggle.
“Our lives are changed forever losing our treasured lifelong friend and shining star,” they wrote. “Her struggle was intense and heroic ― never complaining of her destiny and fully accepting its conclusion. Her magnificent musical legacy Keith, Bruce and I are so blessed to share.”
Durham originally dreamed of becoming a pianist and earned her associate’s degree in the field at the Melbourne University Conservatorium, according to her website. She was an equally passionate singer and at 18 years old she began taking vocal lessons.
Durham joined The Seekers in 1963 when the band released its debut album, “Introducing The Seekers.” They shot to international fame as the first Australian group to achieve mainstream success in the U.S. and U.K.
“The Carnival is Over” and “A World of Our Own” were hit songs that contributed to the band’s meteoric rise. Durham briefly left The Seekers to pursue being a solo artist and returned to the group in the 1990s. The band has sold 50 million records worldwide.
The Seekers legacy includes Durham receiving for her services to music the Medal of the Order of Australia award in 1995, and the Centenary Medal in 2003, according to BBC. The Melbourne native also became Victorian of the Year in 2015 — with the state’s premier Dan Andrews recently sharing his condolences.
“With her unique voice and stage presence leading The Seekers, the band became one of Australia’s biggest chart-toppers,” Andrews tweeted.
“Judith Durham was named Victorian of the Year in 2015 for her services to music and a range of charity work,” Andrews added. “Her memory will not only live on in her numerous hit songs but in the hearts of generations of Victorians and Australians.”