Breakthrough hit came in 1992; also toured with Midnight Oil.
By Fred Mills
The band Yothu Yindi was probably never a household world here in the U.S. – despite the Australian Aboriginal group notching an international hit in 1992 with the politically-charged “Treaty” – and it’s a fair bet that 99% of Americans couldn’t name the lead singer of the group. Neither notion diminishes the achievements of both band and man, however, and fans of Australian music were deeply saddened today when the news broke of Mandawuy Yunupingu’s death Sunday evening from kidney disease, at the age of 56.
According to international news reports, the musician’s surname’s translation is “rock that will stand against anything,” and with Yothu Yindi he became a symbol of both resistance and resilience. “He was the first indigenous Australian from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree,” reports indicate, “and the first Aboriginal school principal, before being named the 1992 Australian of the Year for building bridges between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.Prime Minister Julia Gillard said he was uniquely talented and a passionate advocate for Aboriginal people.
“’We have today lost a great Australian voice in the efforts towards reconciliation,’ she said in a statement. ‘We have lost a uniquely talented musician, a passionate advocate for Aboriginal people and a truly great friend. ‘He leaves a great body of work to inspire us and we will need all of that inspiration, for so much work remains undone.’”
Yothu Yindi formed in 1986, released six albums and toured often with Midnight Oil. With the aforementioned “Treaty” they also reached a global audience. Watch a video of it, below.
Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett tweeted yesterday, “Can’t believe he’s gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu.”