Jimmy Little-Under the Milky way
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Uploaded on Mar 28, 2011
Jimmy Little -- a member of the Yorta Yorta people and uncle of the soprano, writer and composer Deborah Cheetham -- grew up on the Cummeragunja Mission on the Murray River in New South Wales. In 1955 he left for Sydney to pursue his country music where his mellow style earned him the nicknames of the Balladeer, Gentleman Jim, and the Honey Voice.
His first single, "Mysteries of Life"/"Heartbreak Waltz," was released in 1956, but his first hit did not come until 1959 with "Danny Boy," which peaked at number nine in Sydney. It was followed by "El Paso" which reached number 12 in Sydney in February 1960. Little made his acting debut in the Billy Graham evangelical feature film Shadow of the Boomerang that same year.
After 17 previous singles, Little scored his biggest hit with "Royal Telephone," which peaked at number one in Sydney and number three in Melbourne (November 1963). The Barry Gibb-penned "One Road" reached number 19 in Sydney and number 30 in Melbourne in March 1964 and the magazine Everybody's named him Australian Pop Star of the Year. His final hit of the era came with "Baby Blue" which peaked at number eight in Melbourne and number 37 in Sydney (September 1974).
Little then turned to full-time acting, making his theatre debut in Black Cockatoos before appearing in director Wim Wenders' 1991 film Until the End of the World. As well as appearing in Tracy Moffatt's The Night Cries and Andrew Schultz's opera Black River, his teaching and community work earned him the title of NAIDOC Aboriginal of the Year in 1989.
In 1992, he performed at the Tamworth on Parade and Kings of Country roadshows before releasing his 14th album, Yorta Yorta Man, in 1994. That same year, he was inducted into Tamworth's Country Music Roll of Renown, the highest honor an Australian country music artist can achieve.
Messenger, a collection of contemporary songs reinterpreted through Little's smooth vocals, was released in June 1999 and peaked at number 26 nationally, eventually selling over 20,000 copies. The album featured covers of well-known songs by artists such as Nick Cave, Ed Kuepper, and Paul Kelly.
At the 1999 ARIA Music Awards Messenger won Best Adult Contemporary Album and Little was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. At the 1999 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Awards -- The Deadlys -- he won Best Male Artist of the Year and Best Single Release of the Year.
Little returned in September 2001 with Resonate, a new album featuring songs written by Paul Kelly, Don Walker, Bernard Fanning (from Powderfinger), Brendan Gallagher (from Karma County), and Dave Graney.
In 2002 he won the Golden Gospel Award at the Australian Gospel Music Awards for his lifetime support of Australian spiritual music. In 2003, he was a guest of the Wiggles on their children's DVD Wiggly Wiggle World. Jimmy also released the album Down the Road for ABC Country in 2004.
In 2004 he released his 34th album, Life's What You Make It, a collection of unique and poignant versions of songs by contemporary writers as diverse as Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, PJ Harvey, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen.
Outreach and recognition
Jimmy Little has been teaching and mentoring Indigenous music students at the Eora Centre in Redfern since 1985 and has been an ambassador for literacy and numeracy for the Department of Education since 2002. He continues this work today.
He has been recognised as an Officer of the Order of Australia, named as a Living National Treasure in 2004. Little and the composer Peter Sculthorpe were awarded an honorary doctorate in music in recognition of "their joint contribution to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians".
In 2004 Jimmy was diagnosed with kidney failure and after two years of self-administered dialysis he received a life saving kidney transplant. The experience led him to launch the Jimmy Little Foundation to help the many other Indigenous Australians who are succumbing to kidney disease. The Foundation works with patients in regional and remote Australia and now the JLF is partnering with the Fred Hollows Foundation to develop a nutrition and education program for Indigenous children to help stem the ever increasing cycle of bad nutrition leading to diabetes that can lead to kidney failure.
Little was awarded the 2010 APRA Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.
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