Joy McKean, Australia’s “queen of country,” is the 2021 recipient of the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music, one of the highest accolades in the nation’s music industry.
It’s a fitting tribute for McKean, who paved the way for generations of homegrown country artists over a career spanning upwards of 70 years.
The trailblazing country singer and songwriter first made her mark in the 1940s and ‘50s, working alongside her sister Heather — as the McKean Sisters — and created an enduring partnership in life and music with her husband Slim Dusty, writing many of his most famous songs. She also managed the late country great for more than 50 years, and co-founded the Country Music Association of Australia in 1992.
Now aged 91, McKean composed “The Biggest Disappointment, “Ringer from the Top End,” “Walk a Country Mile” and “Indian Pacific,” and did so while touring regional and remote Australia at a time when the perceived role of women was that of home maker.
McKean will be in the room for the presentation during the 2021 APRA Awards, set to take place April 28 in Sydney.
Her contribution to Australian country music “as a pioneering songwriter, bush balladeer, touring performer and artist manager is unparalleled,” reads a statement from APRA.
The Ted Albert honor “was most unexpected,” she admits in a statement, “and I thank those who must have nominated me for such consideration by APRA.”
It’s not the first time McKean been honored for her art and advocacy.
In 1991, McKean was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “service to the entertainment industry” and collected the very first Golden Guitar award at the inaugural Tamworth Country Music Awards back in 1973. Her collection has grown to seven.
“After what has been a lifetime of working in the music industry, and loving just about every minute of it, I find it fascinating to reflect on the changes that have taken place,” she continues, “I’ve seen a lot of them, and no doubt there will be many more than I will ever see. One thing I do look for is that awards such as this will continue to honor and support Australians in our music industry the way Ted Albert always did.”
The Ted Albert Award is one of this country’s highest decorations, and is decided by the APRA board of writer and publisher directors. Previous recipients include the late Michael Gudinski, Paul Kelly, Denis Handlin, The Seekers, Cold Chisel and Fifa Riccobono.
It’s already a successful night for Dua Lipa, who takes out an award ahead of the ceremony. The British pop artist wins the most performed international work category for “Don’t Start Now,” which she co-wrote with Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick and Emily Schwartz.
Highlights from the ceremony will stream from the APRA AMCOS official YouTube page.