Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thanks for the rock 'n' roll Billy

'Crazy' rocker Billy Thorpe dies

AUSTRALIAN rock legend Billy Thorpe has died this morning after suffering a major heart attack overnight.

Thorpe, 60, died in the early hours of the morning after he was rushed to Sydney's St Vincent's Public Hospital at 2am (AEDT), a spokesman has said.

He is survived by his wife Lynne, and daughters Rusty and Lauren. "His family were with him when he passed away," the spokesman has said on Channel 9.

Thorpe's manager Michael Chugg has said the death is a "terrible tragedy", as Thorpe had just finished recording a new album and was very happy after a recent acoustic tour.

Ambulance crews were called to Thorpe's Sydney home shortly after midnight after the star began suffering chest pains.

He was taken to hospital in a serious condition but then went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.

"He woke at 1am feeling terrible. Shortly after that he had a massive heart attack, the paramedics were called to the house, they worked very hard in hospital," Mr Chugg said on Channel Nine.

Thorpe's former manager Michael Browning, who also handled AC/DC, has said Thorpe was a "genius".

"I don't think there has ever been anyone in Australia that has been able to work the crowd like Billy Thorpe. He was just amazing, an actual genius as a showman."

Rock historian Glenn A. Baker has said Thorpe and his band the Aztecs created Australia's pub music scene.

"It's the one form of music we've done better and more convincingly than any other. This sort of loud, roaring, howling, ferocious, sort of pub-based bluesy rock and roll and Thorpe was that incredibly powerful voice.

"There was something that was just primal about Thorpe's blood-curdling roar."

Former Midnight Oil frontman and now Labor MP Peter Garrett has said Thorpe was an inspiration to a generation of musicians.

"They were loud and proud and very Aussie and when they played at Sunbury (music festival) they got up as a bunch of Aussie blokes and just really did it full frontal."

Prime Minister John Howard said he was saddened at the death of Thorpe, who would be best remembered as a "towering figure of Australian rock and roll".

"Billy Thorpe was an accomplished guitarist with an unmistakable voice.

"Perhaps though his fans will remember him for one thing above all else, the ear-splitting volume of his concerts.

"On behalf of Janette and myself and the Australian Government, I extend my deepest sympathies to Billy's family, friends and fans," he said.

Fellow rocker Normie Rowe has said Thorpe was a "cornerstone" of the local music industry.


Thorpe was born in England but migrated with his family to Brisbane in the 1950s.

He moved to Sydney in 1963 and recorded his first song the next year with his band Billy and the Aztecs.

They went on to perform at sell-out venues across Australia and had a string of hits in the 60s and 70s.

Thorpe was best known for the track Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy), released in 1972, which reached No.3 on the national charts.

His music career has spanned five decades and he has also written two autobiographies.

Poking fun at the length of his career, Thorpe released a boxed set in the 1990s titled Lock Up Your Mothers.

He was inducted into the Australian Record Industry Association hall of fame in 1991.

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