John Farnham on a load road to recovery

Image: Matt Jelonek/Wire Image

By Matt Innes

Beloved Australian performer John Farnham is reported to be in a stable condition following a marathon 11-and-a-half hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from inside his mouth.

Farnham, aged 73, underwent surgery on Tuesday (23 August) during which part of his jaw was removed. He is recovering in the ICU in a stable condition. On Wednesday (24 August), his family released a statement saying the operation was a success.

“There is still a long road of recovery and healing ahead of us, but we know John is up for the task,” his wife Jill stated.

Farnham will remain in hospital for recovery and post-operative treatment, with his family saying the ‘You’re The Voice’ singer would be “blown away” by the outpouring of love and support from his fans and well-wishers.

It’s likely Farnham will be in hospital for an extensive period and will probably have a tube inserted into his windpipe.

John Farnham is one of the most successful and well-known performers Australia has ever produced. Born in Essex, England in 1949, John emigrated with his family to Melbourne in 1959. He began his performing career in the early ‘60s with local bands The Mavericks and Strings Unlimited, where he was noticed by Darryl Sambell who soon became his manager.

In 1967, under the name Johnny Farnham, he released his first commercially successful single ‘Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)’, which became the largest-selling single by an Australian artist in the ‘60s until it was bumped by ‘Up There Cazaly’ by Mike Brady in 1979.

Johnny Farnham ruled Australian music as a teen pop idol and was crowned ‘King Of Pop’ by readers of teen pop music magazine ‘Go-Set’ for five consecutive years between 1969 and 1973.

During this time, he released multiple albums and hit singles that remain firmly ensconced in the Australian cultural psyche. He also performed in stage musicals and appeared on television variety shows

As the ‘70s progressed and his days as a teen pop idol naturally ceded to the passage of time, Johnny Farnham’s star began to wane. In 1979, he changed his name to John Farnham and re-emerged in 1980, now styled as an adult contemporary singer under the management of Glenn Wheatley. From 1982-1985 he served as vocalist for Little River Band before releasing what would be his career-defining album ‘Whispering Jack’, featuring mega-hit anthem ‘You’re The Voice’.

Cool fact for pub trivia night: the original ‘Whispering Jack’ album was the first CD made in Australia and is the second-highest selling album ever in the country behind Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ and ahead of ‘ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits’.

The album catapulted him back into the forefront of Australian music and ‘You’re The Voice’ remains a beloved instalment in the Great Australian Songbook. With his career reignited, John enjoyed a string of success throughout the ‘80s, including being named 1987 Australian Of The Year, winning multiple ARIA Awards and releasing his thirteenth studio album ‘Age Of Reason’ in 1988.

Having established himself in the world of contemporary rock, John entered the ‘90s on a high with the release of his acclaimed ‘Chain Reaction’ album, which debuted at No. 1 and became the highest-selling Australian album for 1990.

The ‘90s saw John maintain a persistent presence as a singer and stage performer with the release of his 1991 concert album ‘Full House’, his duet with fellow legend Jimmy Barnes on ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’, performing in the Australian production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, collaborating with Human Nature and releasing several compilation albums.

During his career, John performed multiple times with the late and great Olivia Newton-John, another British expat who became a beloved Australian icon [read our tribute to ONJ here]. In 1998, he and Olivia reconnected for ‘The Main Event’ with Anthony Warlow, and again for the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. They again paired up in 2015 for the ‘Two Strong Hearts Live’ concert tour and performed together one final time at Fire Fight Australia in 2020.

John Farnham truly is ‘the voice’ of Australian music; there are few artists who can claim to have had a greater impact on defining our national cultural identity. His music has soundtracked Australian life for over five decades and is firmly embedded in the hearts of countless fans.

Everyone at MADCAP Global Music extends their warmest wishes to John Farnham for a full and speedy recovery.

Working Locally, Thinking Globally – MADCAP Global Logistics


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