The death of Men At Work star Greg Ham has taken a tragic turn with a close friend of the star revealing that substance abuse may have been a factor in his death.
The 58-year-old’s body was discovered yesterday by friends at his home in Melbourne’s north, a modest house Ham moved into ater he was was forced to sell his larger property bought at the height of Men At Work’s success.
In later years Ham had turned the home into a music studio .
According to The Age, a detective assigned to the case told media while there were several unexplained circumstances surrounding the death, police were unwilling at this point to go into further detail.
The death brings to a close a sad chapter in Ham’s life, which spiralled out of control following the Larrikan Music lawsuit.
Shortly after the judge ruled that the iconic Australian band had plagiarised the distinctive flute from their hit song ‘Down Under’, Ham separated from his wife and according to friends turned to heroin and alcohol.
‘Down Under’ was a number one song for the band around the world, including in the United States, Untied Kingdom, and here in Australia. The album the single is from, Business As Usual, was also a hit with audiences who took the album to #1 in the UK and USA.
A Federal Court judge in 2010 decided that Ham’s distinctive flute riff in Men At Work’s massively successful 1982 song had been copied from campfire tune ‘Kookaburra Sitting In The Old Gum Tree’, and ordered the band pay five percent of the song’s royalties to the publishers of a classic children’s song, Larrikan Music.
The publisher had discovered the similarities between ‘Down Under’ and ‘Kookaburra’, after they were the subject of a joke on a 2007 episode of the ABC music quiz program Spicks and Specks.
Men At Work frontman Colin Hay, who met Ham at high school, has expressed his sympathies to Ham’s family saying he hoped they were “receiving the love and support they need and deserve”, describing the musician as “the funniest person I knew”.
“We shared countless, unbelievably memorable times together, from stumbling through Richmond after playing the Cricketers Arms, to helicoptering into New York City, to appear on Saturday Night Live, or flying through dust storms in Arizona, above the Grand Canyon.”
“We played in a band and conquered the world together. I love him very much. The saxophone solo on Who Can It Be Now, was the rehearsal take. He’s here forever.”
Ham’s long-time friend David Nolte, who discovered the musicians body yesterday, said that he and friends had been trying to contact Ham for a number of days but couldn’t reach him
“They tried to ring him over a number of days and … it kept going to voicemail and the cats obviously hadn’t been fed,” Mr Nolte said.
Nolte stressed that Ham was ”very highly respected” in the community and that he “found him always a very polite gentleman, he was a very humble man, he used to teach high school kids … it was a really big shock.”
A neighbour also commented on the last few months of Ham’s life saying although he was reclusive he had attended a community barbecue recently.
“He looked like he’d done it hard,” she said. “He talked about that riff and he was still pretty upset about that. But he was a good guy. He used to walk the streets a bit and looked a bit daggy.”
Ham is survived by his estranged wife, Linda Wostry, and their two children, aged 17 and 20.
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