Jimmy Little, one of the first indigenous musicians to enjoy mainstream success in Australia, passed away yesterday, April 2, after a long battle with health problems. He was 75.
Little, who suffered with type 2 diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant in 2006, is an ARIA Hall of Fame inductee and a recipient of the Australian Order (AO), in recognition for his career in the entertainment industry and his work with indigenous education and health. In 2004, a public vote named the country singer a "National Living Treasure."
For many years, Little was the only indigenous star in the music scene. Now with the likes of Gurrumul and Jessica Mauboy enjoying accolades both here and abroad, he will be remembered as the one who paved the way.
Born March 1, 1937 at the Cummeragunja Mission in New South Wales, the singer and guitarist began his recording career in 1956, firstly with Regal Zonophone and then with Columbia before signing to Festival Records in 1959. He scored his big hit in 1963 with "Royal Telephone," which would become his signature tune and according to the artist's Website sold more than 75,000 copies -- a platinum achievement in today's record business. The following year, Little was named Australian Pop Star of the Year.
He was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1999, on the back of the success of his album "Messenger," a collection which saw Little cover songs by the likes of the Church, Crowded House and Nick Cave. He repeated the trick in 2004 with the covers album "Life's What You Make of It."
Little's health took a turn for the worse in 2004, when he suffered kidney failure. Following a successful transplant, he launched The Jimmy Little Foundation two years later.
Though he was slowed by time and illness, Little continued to perform. In 2010, he was honored with the prestigious Ted Albert Award at the annual APRA Music Awards in Sydney. Later on the night, the singer teamed with the Church on stage to perform a rendition of the Australian alternative rock act's classic track "Under The Milky Way." It was a moment no-one in the room will forget.