Aussie Rocker Billy Thorpe Dies

Australian rock icon Billy Thorpe died earlier today at Sydney's Vincent Hospital, after suffering a heart attack. He was 60. In the early '70s, Thorpe and his blues/rock band The Aztecs were the bigg

Australian rock icon Billy Thorpe died earlier today (Feb. 28) at Sydney's Vincent Hospital, after suffering a heart attack. He was 60.

In the early '70s, Thorpe and his blues/rock band the Aztecs were the biggest, meanest and loudest drawcard in the country. In 1972, they drew 200,000 to the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne.

"I remember standing on the side of the stage at that show," said his manager at the time, Michael Browning, who later managed AC/DC. "He really worked that crowd, and no one else has been able to work a crowd like that ever."

His career, which spanned five decades, included a series of chart-toppers, and gold albums such as "Aztecs! Live At Sunbury" (1972) and "More Arse Than Class" (1974), released on Infinity/Festival. His signature tune, "Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy"), reached No. 3 on the Australian singles chart in 1972.

Brash and impulsive, Thorpe demanded better working conditions for fellow musicians. He introduced the policy of the "door deal", where an act shared in the takings rather than settle for a fee.

In recent years, he helped revive many careers by co-promoting the multi-act retro tour "It's A Long Way To The Top," which sold 250,000 tickets in 2002. On Feb. 22, he joined the board of Support Act Ltd, set up by the biz to help musicians with finance and health problems. At the time, he told of his plans to unveil in March a strategy of government funding for the association.

Born in the United Kingdom, Thorpe moved to Brisbane, eastern Australia, at the age of nine. A year later, he was performing on TV as Little Rock Allen. At 17, intrigued by England's Merseybeat, he formed The Aztecs. They scored chart toppers with "Poison Ivy" (June 1964) and "Over The Rainbow" (December 1964) before the post-Woodstock culture turned them into festival icons.

In 1979, Thorpe relocated to Los Angeles. A sci-fi/rock opera "Children Of The Sun" sold 500,000 units and became a U.S. top-20 hit before its label Capricorn went bankrupt.

He later founded a business that developed electronics for companies such as Disney, Mattel and Universal, and scored music for TV shows as "Columbo", "Star Trek" and "War Of The Worlds".

On his return to Australia in the mid-1990s, he reformed The Aztecs for successful national tours.

His last recorded project was an unplugged set for Melbourne label Liberation Music, which was taped at The Basement club in Sydney in December 2006. He was also putting the finishing touches on a multimedia project "Tangier" recorded with musicians in Morocco. He is survived by his wife Lynne and daughters Lauren and Rusty.

A public service will be held in Sydney this Sunday (March 4), according to the performer's manager Michael Chugg. Full details will be announced tomorrow.