Monday, 2 April 2012

Vale Jimmy Little.

I first posted this on THURSDAY, 27 JANUARY 2011

Jimmy Little, singer songwriter and gentleman, was a very important figure in race relations in Australia.
He was loved in every household, black, white and brindle while the government was still 'stealing' mixed race children from their mothers. 

He was a successful recording artist because he possessed such a pretty voice but live audiences loved him because he loved them. His mate Brendon on Radio National this afternoon talked about his stagecraft but I would have to ask him to explain what he meant. Stagecraft suggests to me some degree of manipulation of the audience but Jimmy never did that. He did not sing to them as much as sing with them. He shared the stage with his audience as if they were all at a camp fire sing along. 

His death from complications following a kidney transplant was announced this afternoon, so I hope a repeat of this post is appropriate. I played on one record with him in 1963, but we shared the stage at a hundred live performances and Jimmy, if anyone deserves for the Royal Telephone to be answered, it is you.
Jimmy was a special human being and I am honoured to have known him. Here is my tribute as it appeared on this blog for Australia day, 2011.

Australia Day 2011.

Advance Austalia Fair-go! 
(A tribute to Jimmy Little)

Into the bay the tall ships came.
Brave, desperate, driven.
God given arrogance
hidden behind social graces,
a veneer of civilisation.

Men, custodians of thirty, forty,
fifty thousand years of culture.
Older, wise, inclusive,
watched them come
to a land where none knew
coal and iron slept.

‘A land for a people,
A people for a land!’
It started then,
this short history
written by victors
as it always is.

While Biame’s people,
by European pathogens,
shot by Christians,
but destroyed
ultimately by despair.

This must be the year
when 'The Apology',
wrought in guilt,
delivered in hope
should be judged.

Man to man,
woman to woman,
are we succeeding?
Are we embracing
our common humanity?

Now, using wealth
gathered from 
less fortunate men,
who make
from coal and iron
the transient artefacts
so desired;
we can pay others to 'fix it',
if we want.

Or we can look
into every eye
to seek
our common heritage
as humans
with love and respect,
and return it.

But, as in ‘The greatest love of all’,
It is our children
who ‘lead the way’.
Raised in schools
where so many faces of races
have places,
our children already
live the agenda
of inclusion;
Citizens of our Accidental Multicultural Society.

Dedicated with love and appreciation to Australian Aboriginal musician and activist Jimmy Little, an 'accidental bridge builder', and his feisty wife Marge, the ‘power behind the throne’.
PS. I heard yesterday that Marge died a few months ago... and Jimmy would have wanted to go with her, so he did.


Still struggling a bit with the poem but don't we all!
Tall ships pic courtesy National Library.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute.

  2. No blatant stupidity I could find. :o) I sent you a message via facebook, btw.

  3. Dear Stafford,

    May I be so bold, Staford to see that we are comrades - trying in our own little way to preserve heritage, to bridge the divide.

  4. Regret the spelling error Stafford! Unforgivable!

  5. I would have enjoyed your Jimmy ...

    1. Google rewarded me with a recording of Royal Telephone, with yukky images of Christian icons.
      Jimmy was a Christian indeed and he said so often, but he expressed it in his dignity, and as a role model for Aboriginal kids and his work bringing literacy to many in outback settlements.
      Images of an angelic white Jesus is not him. Far better to have included images of Jimmy himself!

  6. On last night's news there was a long tribute to Jimmy, then I heard that Marge died just before Christmas. That would have been a terrible blow to him, such a loving and gentle man.
    But his was a life well lived and he leaves behind a legacy of music and positive change that few could even aspire to. He was a credit to humanity of any creed or colour.

  7. I thought of you when I heard he had died. You have written a wonderful tribute and poem.

  8. I feel sad about Jimmy Little. He was a great man and such a gent. I am so glad you got the chance to play with him!


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