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Paul Kelly
Head and shoulders of a fifty-two year old male standing at a microphone. He is shown in right profile, wearing a harmonica in a cradle and staring into the distance.
Paul Kelly, November 2007
Background information
Birth name Paul Maurice Kelly
Born 13 January 1955 (1955-01-13) (age 55)
Origin Adelaide, Australia
Genres acoustic, folk, Australian rock
Occupations musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1974–present
Labels Mushroom
Associated acts Paul Kelly and the Dots
Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls
Paul Kelly and the Messengers
Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys
Uncle Bill
Professor Ratbaggy
Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions
Stardust Five

Paul Maurice Kelly[1][2][3] (born 13 January 1955 in Adelaide, South Australia)[1][4] is an Australian rock music singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player.[5] Kelly has performed solo and led numerous groups including Paul Kelly and the Dots, Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls and Paul Kelly and the Messengers; he has been a member of associated projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five and performed with other artists and groups.[5] Kelly has been acknowledged as one of Australia's best singer-songwriters,[6][7][8] his music style has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output comfortably straddles folk, rock, and country.[6][7][9] His lyrics capture Australia's vastness both in culture and landscape, he has chronicled life about him for over 30 years and is described as the poet laureate of Australia. David Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine calls Kelly "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise."[10] However, Kelly has been quoted as saying "Songwriting is mysterious to me. I don’t feel like I have got it nailed yet."[1][8]

Kelly's Top 40 singles on the National charts have been his 1980s releases "Billy Baxter", "Before Too Long", "Darling it Hurts", "To Her Door" and "Dumb Things", and his 2000 single "Roll on Summer".[6][11][12] "To Her Door" was his best local hit peaking at No. 14 on the Australian singles charts in 1987,[11] while "Dumb Things" peaked at No. 16 on the US Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1988.[13] Albums success included Top Twenty hits on the national charts for Gossip, Under The Sun and So Much Water So Close to Home from the 1980s;[11][12] Comedy, Wanted Man, Songs from the South and Words and Music from the 1990s;[12] and ...Nothing but a Dream, Ways & Means and Stolen Apples from the 2000s.[12] The compilation album Songs from the South peaked at No. 2 in 1997, while his highest charting studio album was ...Nothing but a Dream which peaked at No. 7 in 2001.[12] Kelly's iconic status was recognised in 1997 when he was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame.[14]

In 2001, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) listed the Top 30 Australian songs of all time,[15] including "To Her Door", solely written by Kelly,[2] and "Treaty", written by Kelly and members of Indigenous Australian band Yothu Yindi.[3] Aside from "Treaty", Kelly has written or co-written several songs on indigenous peoples' social issues and historical events, including "Maralinga (Rainy Day)" on British nuclear testing, "From Little Things Big Things Grow" (with Kev Carmody) on the Gurindji strike for land rights and on reconciliation, and "Rally Around the Drum" (with Archie Roach) about a tent boxing man.[1] Kelly has also provided songs for many other artists, tailoring them to their particular vocal range.[16][17] Women at the Well from 2002 had 14 female artists record his songs in tribute.[7]

After growing up in Adelaide, Kelly travelled around Australia before settling in Melbourne in 1976, he became involved in the pub rock scene and drug culture,[8] he recorded two albums with Paul Kelly and the Dots.[5] Kelly moved to Sydney by 1985 where he formed Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls,[6] which was renamed Paul Kelly and the Messengers, initially for international releases only, to avoid possible racist interpretations.[18] At the end of the 1980s, Kelly returned to Melbourne, and in 1991 he disbanded the Messengers.[5][6] Kelly has been married and divorced twice, he has three children and resides in St. Kilda a suburb of Melbourne with his girlfriend, Sian Prior.[19] Dan Kelly, his nephew, is a singer and guitarist in his own right, Dan has performed with Kelly on Ways and Means and Stolen Apples, both are members of Stardust Five which released a self-titled album in 2006.[5]


Early life

Paul Maurice Kelly was born on 13 January 1955 in Adelaide, South Australia to John Erwin Kelly, a lawyer, and Josephine Kelly née Filippini,[20] as the sixth of nine children (including one still-born).[21][22] According to legend, he was born outside North Adelaide’s Calvary Hospital in a taxi,[23] this story is reinforced by the lyrics of his 1991 song "It's all Downhill from Here" from the album Comedy.[24]

I was born in a crowded taxi
Daddy scooped me right up off the floor
And he carried me up the path through the big swinging doors
Paul Kelly, 1991

Kelly is the great-great-grandson of Jeremiah Kelly who fled Ireland in 1852 and settled in Clare, South Australia.[22] His grandfather, Francis Kelly, established a law firm in 1917 which his father John joined in 1937.[25] John died in 1968 at the age of 52, when Kelly was 13 years old, after being diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease some years earlier.[26]

"I have good memories, he was the kind of father that, well, I missed him when he died very much. The older children were growing into him at the time he died. He was not well enough to play sport with me."[27]
Paul Kelly, 25 April 2004

In Kelly's semi-autobiographical song "Adelaide", from his 1985 album Post, he recalls these events.

Dad's hands used to shake but I never knew he was dying
I was 13 I never dreamed he could fall
And all the great aunts were red in the eyes from crying
I rang the bells I never felt nothing at all
All the king's horses all the king's men
Cannot bring him back again
Paul Kelly, 1985

Kelly's maternal grandfather was an Italian opera singer, Count Ercole Filippini, a leading baritone for the La Scala Opera Company in Milan,[20] who was touring Australia with a Spanish Opera Company, when the first world war broke out, he stayed and married one of his singing students, Anne McPharland.[22] As Countessa Anne Fillippini, she was Australia's first female symphony orchestra conductor.[27] Kelly's grandparents started the Italo-Australian Opera Company,[28] which toured the country in the 1920s.

Josephine raised the younger children on her own after John's death but found time to assist others in need.[26] Kelly's oldest sister, Anne, became a nun and went on to write hymns while younger sister, Mary-Jo, plays piano in Latin bands and teaches music at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School.[19][29] Kelly's older brother, Martin, works for the Christian Brothers' volunteer organisation Edmund Rice International,[30][31] with another brother, Tony, a drug and alcohol counsellor, who ran as an Australian Greens candidate in the 2001 and 2004 federal elections.[32][33] Kelly's mother moved to Brisbane, Queensland, where she died in 2000.

Kelly attended Rostrevor College, a Christian Brothers school, where he played trumpet and studied piano,[16] was a cricket captain, and became dux of his senior year.[34] Kelly studied arts at Flinders University in 1973, but left after a year, disillusioned with academic life.[20] He began writing prose and started a magazine with some friends.[20] Kelly spent several years working odd jobs, travelling around the country and learning guitar before he eventually moved to Melbourne in 1976.[6][22]

1974–1984: Paul Kelly and the Dots

Kelly recalled his first public performance was in 1974 in Hobart:[7][19]

I was living there at the time and there was a folk club at Salamanca Place. They had a night, I think a Monday night, where anyone could get up. I sang Dylan's "Girl from North Country" and "Streets of Forbes", a traditional Australian song about Ben Hall. I can't really remember how it went - I remember I had a lot to drink afterwards from relief. I was incredibly nervous.
Paul Kelly[10]

He his first published song, "It's the Falling Apart that Makes You", was written after listening to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks at the age of 19,[16] although in an interview with Drum Media he recalled writing his first unpublished song:

It was an open-tuning and had four lines about catching trains. I have got a recording of it somewhere. It was called "Catching a Train". I wrote a lot of songs about trains early on, trains and fires, and then I moved onto water
Paul Kelly[10]

Kelly appeared on the Melbourne-based various artists' release Debutantes in 1976 and then joined pub-rockers The High Rise Bombers during 1977–1978.[5][6] The High Rise Bombers included Kelly (vocals, guitar, songwriter), Martin Armiger (guitar, vocals, songwriter), Lee Cass (bass guitar), Chris Dyson (guitar), Sally Ford (saxophone, songwriter), John Lloyd (drums) and Keith Shadwick (saxophone).[6] Dyson was replaced by Chris Langman (guitar, vocals) in early 1978 and in August, after Armiger left for The Sports and Ford for The Kevins, Kelly formed Paul Kelly and the Dots with Langman and Lloyd. The High Rise Bombers recorded two tracks "She's Got It" and "Domestic Criminal" which eventually appeared on the 1981 compilation The Melbourne Club by various artists on Missing Links Records.[6] The Dots included various line-ups from 1978–1982 and released their debut single "Recognition" in 1979, which had no chart success.[6] In 1980, Kelly, at the age of 25 married Hilary Brown and their son Declan Kelly was born 1980 or 1981.[19][27] Paul Kelly and the Dots signed to Mushroom Records and released "Billy Baxter" in November 1980,[6] which peaked at No. 38 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart.[11] Their debut album Talk followed in 1981, which reached No. 44 on the albums charts.[11]

Paul Kelly and the Dots travelled to the Philippines' capital in late 1981 to record their second album Manila, which was released in August 1982 but had no chart success.[6] Release was delayed by line-up changes and the fact that Kelly had his jaw broken when assaulted in Melbourne.[6] Kelly was not pleased with either album,[6][19] and later stated, "I wish I could grab the other two and put 'em in a big hole".[18] 1982 also saw the release of the Gillian Armstrong film Starstruck which starred Jo Kennedy.[35] Paul Kelly and the Dots supplied "Rocking Institution" for the soundtrack and Kelly added to the score.[35][36] Kennedy released "Body and Soul", a revision of Split Enz' "She Got Body, She Got Soul", from the soundtrack as a shared single with "Rocking Institution" on the other side.[36] Acting in a minor role in Starstruck was Kaarin Fairfax,[35] who later became Kelly's second wife.[19] After the Dots folded in 1982, Kelly was without a recording contract,[34] Paul Kelly Band was formed in 1983 with Michael Armiger (bass guitar), Chris Coyne (saxophone), Maurice Frawley (guitar) and Greg Martin (drums), by 1984 Michael Barclay replaced Martin on drums and Graham Lee (guitar, pedal steel guitar) joined.[5][6] Kelly's involvement in the Melbourne drug culture and problems with his marriage disrupted his career,[8] and by late 1984 the marriage had broken up,[19][27] he disbanded his group and relocated to Sydney.[6][8]

1985–1991: Coloured Girls to Messengers

Thirty year old Kelly is shown in left profile playing a guitar in front of a microphone. To his right are two guitarists and a keyboardist amid musical equipment. Behind the keyboard is the drummer at his kit, partly obscured by another microphone. In the background are high fences.
Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls,
Long Bay Gaol, Christmas Eve, 1985

Kelly moved to Sydney by January 1985, where he recorded the self-funded (at a cost of $3,500)[21] album, Post, with Michael Barclay (Weddings, Parties, Anything) on harmonies, guitarist Steve Connolly (The Zimmermen)[37] and bass guitarist Ian Rilen (Rose Tattoo, X).[6][34] They spent two weeks recording at Clive Shakespeare's studio, Shakespeare engineered the album and co-produced with Kelly, it was released in May 1985 on the independent label, White Records, and licensed to Mushroom Records.[5][6][18][34] Kelly dedicated the album to his friend, singer-songwriter, Paul Hewson (Dragon), who had died of a heroin overdose in January.[38][39] It is a stark, personal collection of acoustic songs that highlight Kelly's broadly based songwriting skill.[6] Rolling Stone (Australia) hailed Post as the best record of 1985.[21][27] "From St. Kilda to King's Cross" was released as a single from the album, but it did not chart.[6]

After recording the album, Kelly played and recorded with a full-time band, which included Armiger, Barclay and Connolly, bass guitarist Jon Schofield, and keyboardist Peter Bull.[5] Through a joke based on Lou Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side", the band became known as Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls.[6][18] Armiger soon left the fold, and the line-up of the Coloured Girls stabilized in late in 1985 as Barclay, Bull, Connolly and Schofield (see pictured).[5][6]

Stuart Coupe, Kelly's manager, advised him to sign with Regular Records due to difficulty re-signing with Mushroom's Michael Gudinski.[18] Michelle Higgins, Mushroom's Public relations officer, was a Kelly supporter and locked herself into a Sebel Townhouse Hotel room—at Mushroom's expense—for nearly a week in mid-1986 and refused to leave until Gudinski had signed Kelly to a two-album recording contract.[18][40]

In 1986 Kelly performed with The Rock Party, a charity project initiated by The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA), which included many other Australasian musicians. The Rock Party released a 12" single "Everything to Live For", which was produced by Joe Wissert, Phil Rigger and Phil Beazley.[41][42]

In September 1986 Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls released the 24-track double LP, Gossip.[5] The album included remakes of four songs from Post and also featured "Maralinga (Rainy Land)", a song about the effects of British atomic testing on the Maralinga Tjarutja (indigenous people of Maralinga, South Australia).[19] Gossip peaked at No. 15 on the Kent Music Report Albums chart, with singles chart success for "Before Too Long" which peaked at No. 15 and "Darling it Hurts" reaching No. 25.[11] A single LP version of Gossip featuring 15 songs was released in the United States (US) by A&M Records in July, 1987.[5] Due to possible racist connotations the band changed its name, for international releases, to Paul Kelly and the Messengers.[6][18] They made a US tour, initially supporting Crowded House and then head-lining, travelling across the US by bus.[6] "Darling it Hurts" peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1987.[13] The New York Times rock critic, John Pareles wrote "Mr. Kelly sang one smart, catchy three-minute song after another - dozens of them - as the band played with no-frills directness." following the band's performance at the Bottom Line Club in New York.[43]

Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls' second album, Under the Sun, was released in 1987 in both Australia and in the US (as by Paul Kelly and the Messengers).[5] On the Kent Music Report Albums Chart it reached No. 19 with the single "To Her Door" peaking at No. 14 on the Singles Chart.[11] A second single, "Dumb Things" was released in early 1989 and attained No. 36 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Singles Chart.[12] In US, it reached No. 16 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart.[13] The song was included on the soundtrack for the 1988 Yahoo Serious film Young Einstein.[44] Also in 1988, "To Her Door" won an ARIA Award for 'Best Video' directed by Claudia Castle.[45][46]

Their next album, So Much Water So Close to Home was released in 1989 by Paul Kelly and the Messengers in all markets, it peaked at No. 10 on the ARIA Albums Chart, but none of its singles reached the ARIA Top 40 Singles Chart.[12] Kelly relocated back to Melbourne after having lived in Sydney for six years.[19][27] Another US tour was undertaken but there was no further chart success for albums or singles released in the US market.[6] In 1991 the band released Comedy which peaked at No. 12 on the ARIA Albums chart.[12] "From Little Things Big Things Grow", a seven-minute track from the album was co-written by Kelly and Kev Carmody.[2] It is based on the story of The Gurindji Strike and Vincent Lingiari as part of the Indigenous Australian struggle for land rights and reconciliation.[6][47] A cover version released in May 2008 by The GetUp Mob, part of the GetUp! advocacy group, peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA singles charts.[48] This version included samples from speeches by Prime Ministers Paul Keating in 1992, and Kevin Rudd in 2008;[49] it featured vocals by both Carmody and Kelly, as well as other Australian artists. Kelly also collaborated with members of Yothu Yindi to write "Treaty" which peaked at No. 11 in September 1991.[50] Both "To Her Door" and "Treaty" were voted into the APRA Top 30 Australian songs of all time in 2001.[15] Paul Kelly and the Messengers gave their last performance in August 1991, with Kelly set to pursue a solo career.[6]

We forged a style together. But I felt if we had kept going it would have got formulaic and that's why I broke it up. I wanted to try and start moving into other areas, start mixing things up.
Paul Kelly[38]

Paul Kelly and the Messengers' final album, Hidden Things, was actually a collection of previously released B-sides and stray non-LP tracks, along with a handful of radio sessions and other rarities. It was released in May 1992, and reached No. 29.[12]

1992–1999: Paul Kelly Band and others

Since 1992, Kelly has had a solo career, fronted the Paul Kelly Band and worked in occasional collaborations with other songwriters and performers.[6] In 1992 Kelly was asked to compose songs for Funerals and Circuses, a Roger Bennett play about racial tensions in small town Australia.[51][52] Kelly took the role of a petrol attendant when the play premiered at the Adelaide Fringe Festival that year.[53] Kelly co-wrote "Hey Boys" with Mark Seymour (Hunters & Collectors) for the soundtrack of the 1992 Australian film, Garbo; when released as a single it peaked at No. 62.[54] Kelly contributed songs and vocals to the soundtrack of the 1993 television series Seven Deadly Sins.[55]

Kelly's first post-Messengers solo release was the live double CD Live, May 1992 released in November 1992.[6] Kelly had already relocated to Los Angeles (LA) and signed with Vanguard Records to tour the US as a solo artist.[6] While in LA he produced fellow Australian Renée Geyer's album Difficult Woman released in 1994.[5] Kelly returned to Australia in 1993 and wrote a collection of lyrics, aptly titled Lyrics, which opens with this quote from Anton Chekhov:

I don't have what you would call a philosophy or coherent world view so I shall have to limit myself to describing how my heroes love, marry, give birth, die and speak."[24]

His next album Wanted Man, released in 1994, reached No. 11.[12] Kelly also composed music for Everynight ... Everynight (1994), directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos, a feature film set in the notorious H division of Victoria's Pentridge Prison.[56][57] Kelly's next solo releases were Deeper Water in 1995 and Live at the Continental and the Esplanade in 1996.[5] Between March and May 1995 Kelly undertook a seven week tour of North America, appearing on several dates with Liz Phair and Joe Jackson.[58] By 1996, Paul Kelly Band members were Stephen Hadley (bass, ex-Black Sorrows), Bruce Haymes (keyboards), Peter Luscombe (drums, ex-Black Sorrows) and Shane O'Mara (guitar).[5] Spencer P. Jones (guitar, Beasts of Bourbon) guested on some performances.[6] This line-up issued the CD-EP, How to Make Gravy with the title track earning Kelly a 'Song of the Year' nomination at the 1998 Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) Music Awards.[59]

In 1997, Kelly released his compilation album, Songs from the South: Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits on Mushroom Records,[5] the 20-track album peaked at No. 2 on the ARIA albums charts,[12] and has achieved quadruple platinum certification indicating sales of over 280,000.[60][61] Kelly won the ARIA Award in 1997 for 'Best Male Artist', having been previously nominated in 1993, 1995 and [[ARIA Music Awards of 1996|1996.[45] At the 20 September 1997 ceremony he was also inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.[14] Kelly won the 'Best Male Artist' award again in 1998 and has been nominated for the same award a further seven times.[45] His next album, Words and Music, appeared in 1998, which peaked at No. 17 on the ARIA albums chart, and included three singles that did not reach the Top 40.[12] 1998 also saw Kelly undertaking a three week tour of Canada and the US to promote Words and Music.[62]

Smoke was released by Paul Kelly with Uncle Bill; the latter is a Melbourne bluegrass band comprising Gerry Hale on guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle and vocals, Adam Gare on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Peter Somerville on banjo and vocals and Stuart Speed on double bass.[5][6] "Our Sunshine" was one of the new songs on the album and was written as a tribute to Ned Kelly, a famous Australian outlaw (not related). The album featured a mix of old and new Kelly songs treated in classic bluegrass fashion,[7] Kelly had previously recorded a track with Uncle Bill, "Thanks a Lot", for the 1997 compilation, Where Joy Kills Sorrow, on the W. Minc label,[63] and in 1998 for the Not So Dusty Slim Dusty tribute album.[6] Smoke was released on Kelly's new label, Gawdaggie, through EMI Records in Australia in October 1999 and peaked at No. 36.[12] Smoke won three awards from the Victorian Country Music Association, 'Best Group (Open)', 'Best Group (Victorian)', and 'Album of the Year' in 2000.[64] In September Kelly had performed at the Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh Festival, as well as shows in London and Dublin.[65]

Professor Ratbaggy was formed in 1999 by Paul Kelly Band members Stephen Hadley (bass guitar, backing vocals), Bruce Haymes (keyboards, organ, backing vocals), Kelly (vocals, guitar) and Peter Luscombe (drums); they released Professor Ratbaggy in 1999 on EMI Records.[66] Songwriting was shared around the group members and the album had a more groove-oriented style compared to his usual folk or rock formula, using samples, synth and percussion.[6]

Kelly's second anthology of lyrics entitled Don't Start Me Talking was first published in 1999, with subsequent songs appended in the 2004 edition;[67] this second edition has been added to the Victorian Certificate of Education English reading list for Year 12 (final year of secondary schooling) since 2006.[68]


Head and shoulders of Kelly kneeling near a bed with arms leaning onto it, he is looking forwards. On the bed is an eight year old girl looking to her left. A woman is laying near the girl on that side while propped on an elbow, she is smiling and cuddling the girl. The child's bedroom has a dresser beyond Kelly with moonlight shining in from the right.
One Night the Moon (2001), showing Paul Kelly, Memphis Kelly and Kaarin Fairfax

During the 2000s Kelly worked as a composer for film and TV scores/soundtracks including Lantana (also as a member of Professor Ratbaggy), Silent Partner and One Night the Moon in 2001, Fireflies in 2004 and Jindabyne in 2006.[69] These works have resulted in five award wins: ARIA 'Best Original Soundtrack' for Lantana (with Stephen Hadley, Bruce Haymes and Shane O'Mara); Australian Film Institute (AFI) 'Open Craft Award', Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards 'Best Music Score' and Screen Music Award 'Best Soundtrack Album' for One Night the Moon (with Mairead Hannan, Kev Carmody, John Remeril, Deirdre Hannan and Alice Garner); Valladolid International Film Festival 'Best Music' award for Jindabyne and six further nominations.[70] Kelly also acted in One Night The Moon alongside his then wife Kaarin Fairfax, who has acted in the lead role in two TV miniseries The Harp in the South and Poor Man's Orange,[71] and with their younger daughter Memphis Kelly.[69] A video clip from the movie, provided by the National Film and Sound Archive, is available at Australian Screen, it shows Memphis, Fairfax and Kelly singing a lullaby (see pictured).[72] Kelly and Fairfax separated not long after the film's release.

2000 saw the release of Roll on Summer as a four-track EP,[5] which peaked at No. 40 on the ARIA singles charts.[12] Kelly released ...Nothing but a Dream in 2001, returning to his core singer-songwriter style,[7] it peaked at No. 7 on the ARIA albums chart,[12] and achieved gold record status.[73] The North American release of ...Nothing but a Dream added all 4 tracks from the Roll On Summer EP as bonus tracks.

In March 2001 Kelly was support act for Bob Dylan's tour of Australia.[74] Between August and November Kelly performed a series of acoustic shows in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and France (the latter supporting Ani DiFranco).[75] In 2002 Kelly undertook a six week tour of North America,[22][76][77] which was followed by a tour of UK and Ireland later that year.[78] In 2002 and 2003, two albums of Kelly's songs were released: Women at the Well featured songs performed by female artists,[7] including Bic Runga, Jenny Morris, Renée Geyer, Magic Dirt, Rebecca Barnard (Rebecca's Empire), Christine Anu, and Kasey Chambers;[79] and Stories of Me featured fellow songwriters including James Reyne, Mia Dyson and Jeff Lang.[80] In 2003 Kelly undertook a tour of North America, the UK and Ireland, performing at the Edmonton Music Festival and again at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[81][82]

Ways & Means was released by Paul Kelly in 2004, and peaked at No. 13.[12] Though identified as a solo record, it was more of a group effort, with a backing band, later dubbed The Boon Companions, co-writing most of the tracks. The Boon Companions consisted of Kelly's nephew Dan Kelly on guitar, Peter Luscombe on drums and his brother Dan Luscombe on guitar and keyboards, and Bill McDonald on bass guitar.[7] On 7 February, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) started broadcasting the television series Fireflies which featured a score by Kelly and Stephen Rae.[83][84] The associated soundtrack CD, Fireflies: Songs of Paul Kelly, included tracks by Kelly, Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, Professor Ratbaggy, Paul Kelly with Uncle Bill, and "Los Cucumbros" by the Boon Companions featuring Sian Prior,[85] which was later a track on Stardust Five.[86] In March, Kelly played a number of performances across North America, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles,[87] this was followed by a more extensive series of performances between July and September throughout North America and Europe.[88] In December, in Melbourne, Kelly performed 100 of his songs in alphabetical order over two nights.[89] A similar show was performed at the studio at Sydney Opera House in December 2006.

Foggy Highway was a second bluegass-oriented album for Kelly, credited to Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys and released in 2005. It peaked at No. 23 on the ARIA albums charts.[12] The line-up for the majority of the album was Kelly, Mick Albeck (fiddle), James Gillard (bass), Rod McCormack (guitar), Ian Simpson (banjo) and Trev Warner (mandolin).[90] As with Smoke (his previous bluegrass release), Foggy Highway consisted of a mix of new compositions and re-arranged Kelly classics. The Canadian edition of the release included a 4-song bonus EP of outtakes.

In June 2005, Kelly put together Timor leste – Freedom Rising, a collaboration of Australian artists donating new recordings, unreleased tracks or b-sides to make connections between a wide range of music to raise money for environmental, health and education projects in East Timor.[91] All funds raised from the album went to Life, Love and Health and The Alola Foundation.[92][93]

On 26 March 2006, Kelly performed at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, singing "Leaps and Bounds" and "Rally around the Drum".[94][95] On 8 October, Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, Hoodoo Gurus and Sime Nugent performed together at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne to again raise funds for Life, Love and Health and to help support their ongoing programs in Timor-Leste in response to the needs of the people during the humanitarian crisis.[93][96]

Kelly formed Stardust Five in 2006, with the same line-up as Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions from Ways & Means, they released their self-titled debut album in March, each member contributed in composing the music with Kelly providing lyrics.[97] The album also has backing vocals, on two tracks including "Los Cucumbros", supplied by Kelly's current girlfriend, Sian Prior.[98] 2006 saw Kelly undertake another tour of North America,[99] appearing together with The Waifs at clubs and festivals in several US states and the Canadian province of Alberta.[100]

Kelly has written songs with and for numerous artists, including Mick Thomas, Renée Geyer, Kate Ceberano, Vika and Linda Bull, Nick Cave, Marilyn Manson, Nick Barker, Kasey Chambers, Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach, Gyan, Monique Brumby, Kelly Willis, Missy Higgins and Troy Cassar-Daley.[16] He has described how some songs he writes are suited to other vocal ranges:

Quite often, I'm trying to write a certain kind of song and it's more ambitious than what my voice will get to. That's how I started writing songs with other people in mind.
Paul Kelly, 2008[17]

Kelly has realised that co-writing with other songwriters lends power to his songs:

You often write songs with collaborators that you would never write by yourself. It’s a way of dragging a song out of you that you wouldn’t have come up with.
Paul Kelly, 2002[16]

Kelly described his songwriting as "a scavenging art, a desperate act. For me it's a bit from here, a bit from there, fumbling around, never quite knowing what you're doing. I might have a melody or a scrap of words and I'm just trying to get them to fit. If I knew how to write a song, I'd write one every day. You can't really pull out the manual and follow steps A, B and C and make a song, it just doesn't work like that. You just have to get a bit lucky. Songwriting is like a way of feeling connected to mystery."[10]

In 2007, Kelly released Stolen Apples containing songs based on religious themes, it peaked at No. 8 on the ARIA albums charts,[12] and achieved gold record status.[101] Following the recording of the album guitartist and keyboardist, Dan Luscombe, left to join The Drones, he was replaced by Ashley Naylor (Even) and Cameron Bruce (The Polaroids) on guitar and keyboards respectively.[23] A tour in support of the album saw Kelly perform the entire album plus selected hits from his catalogue, one of the last performances of this tour, on 20 September 2007 in Toowoomba, Queensland, was filmed and released on DVD as Live Apples: Stolen Apples Performed Live in its Entirety Plus 16 More Songs, on 26 April 2008.[102][103]

Early 2008 saw Kelly making his first appearance at the Big Day Out concerts across Australia,[104][105] while in March he performed at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.[106][107] Kelly released Stolen Apples in Ireland and UK in July 2008 and followed with a tour there in August.[108]

Kelly has resisted the label of 'storyteller' and insists that his songs are not strictly autobiographical:

A lot of my songs are very situational, they come from imagining someone in a particular situation. Sometimes a sequence of events happens which makes it more a story, but other times it’s just that situation. I guess most music theatre writes from that point of view.
Paul Kelly, 2002[16]

In June, 2008, The Age newspaper commemorated 50 years of Australian rock n' roll (the anniversary of the release of Johnny O'Keefe's "Wild One") by selecting the Top 50 Australian Albums, with two of Kelly's albums, Gossip and Post coming in at No. 7 and No. 30 on the list.[109][110]

Kelly was nominated as 'Best Male Artist' for "To Her Door (Live)" and 'Best Music DVD' for Live Apples at the 2008 ARIA Awards.[45] In September he announced that he had reacquired the rights to his old catalogue including those originally released by Mushroom Records—later bought out by Warner Records.

Recently, the rights to all my recordings reverted back to me. Until then, the old recordings were with Warner and the later ones with EMI, my record label for the last nine years. I have decided to renew my licence with EMI and place all the recordings under one roof.
Paul Kelly, 2008[111]

As a result of the acquisition, EMI, in November 2008, released Songs from the South - Volume 2, a collection of Kelly's songs from the last decade following on from Songs from the South - Volume 1. The new compilation also featured the first physical relase of Kelly's song, "Shane Warne". Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available separately but also as a combined double album. EMI also released a DVD, Paul Kelly – The Video Collection 1985-2008, a collection of Kelly's home videos made over the past 23 years together with several live performances.[112] Songs from the South - Volume 2 included one new song, "Thoughts in the Middle of the Night"

It's a band song, we all wrote it together. There's a poem by James Fenton, a British poet, called "The Mistake", which is probably an influence on the lyrics. It's a waking up in the middle of the night song, for anyone who's woken up at 3am and not been able to get back to sleep.
Paul Kelly[10]

Kelly performed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 14 March 2009 for Sound Relief, which was a multi-venue rock music concert in support of victims of the Victorian Bushfire Crisis.[113][114] The event was held simultaneously with a concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground.[113] All proceeds from the Melbourne concert went to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire relief.[113][114] Appearing with Kelly in Melbourne were Augie March, Bliss N Eso with Paris Wells, Gabriella Cilmi, Hunters & Collectors, Jack Johnson, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson with Troy Cassar-Daley, Kings Of Leon, Jet, Midnight Oil, Liam Finn, Split Enz and Wolfmother.[115]

On the 13 and 14 November 2009 Triple J presented a Tribute Concert to Kelly (marking his 30th anniversary as a solo artist) at The Forum Theatre in Melbourne, acknowledging and highlighting Kelly's contribution to Australian music. The lineup included Missy Higgins, John Butler, Paul Dempsey (Something for Kate), Katy Steele (Little Birdy), Bob Evans, Ozi Batla (The Herd), Dan Kelly, Clare Bowditch, Jae Laffer (The Panics), Adalita Srsen (Magic Dirt), Dan Sultan, Megan Washington interpreting the songs of Paul Kelly together with members of Augie March as the backing band and Ashley Naylor (Even) as Musical Director.[38] A recording of the two concerts was released by ABC Music as a DVD and a double CD, Before Too Long, with a bonus CD featuring original songs by Kelly, on the 19 February 2010.[116]

Personal life

Paul Kelly's first marriage, 1980–1984, was to Hilary Brown, which provided a son Declan Kelly. As of 2007, Declan presented a radio show on Triple R, he was a DJ around Melbourne and played the drums.[117]

Kelly's second marriage, 1988–2001, was to Australian actress, Kaarin Fairfax, with whom he has two daughters, Madeleine, born in 1991 and Memphis, born in 1993.[27] Memphis, starred alongside her parents in Rachel Perkins's 2001 short film One Night the Moon, for which Kelly also composed the score.[27][69]

As from 2008, Kelly lives in St. Kilda with Sian Prior, his girlfriend (2002–present), a journalist, university lecturer and former opera singer,[118][119] they met when Kelly was interviewed on her Sunday Arts ABC radio program.[19] Kelly wrote "You're 39, You're Beautiful and You're Mine" for Prior who was already 40 by the time he finished.[19]

Dan Kelly is Kelly's nephew and is a singer-guitarist in his own right. Dan has performed with his uncle on several of Kelly's albums, including Ways and Means as a member of Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions, on Stolen Apples and both Dan and Paul are members of Stardust Five which released Stardust Five. Dan has released two albums of his own, both of which received ARIA Award nominations.[120][121][122]


Kelly has written, co-written or edited the following:[51][123]

  • Bennett, Roger; with songs by Paul Kelly (1995). Funerals and circuses. Sydney, NSW: Currency Press. ISBN 0868193801. 
  • Kelly, Paul (1993). Lyrics. Pymble, NSW: Angus & Robertson. ISBN 0207182213. 
  • Kelly, Paul (2004) [1999]. Don't start me talking: lyrics 1984–2004 (2nd Edition ed.). St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1865081051. 
  • Kelly, Paul; Kate Judith, National Educational Advancement Programs (2005). Don't start me talking: lyrics 1984–2004. Carlton, Vic: National Educational Advancement Programs (NEAP). ISBN 9781864780994. 
  • Kelly, Paul; Richard Paine (1990). Songs (musical score). Sydney, NSW: Wise. ISBN 9780949785275. 
  • Kelly, Paul; Richard Paine (1993). Songs. Book two (musical score). Sydney, NSW: Wise. ISBN 9780949785312. 

Paul Kelly's bands and their members

Since starting his professional career in 1974, Kelly has been the leader or a member of numerous Australian bands. Some of his backing bands have recorded and released their own material under alternate names. As of June 2008, Paul Kelly's band members are Peter Luscombe on drums, Bill McDonald on bass guitar/backing vocals, his nephew Dan Kelly on lead guitar/backing vocals, Ashley Naylor on guitar and Cameron Bruce on keyboards.[124]


Studio albums


Paul Kelly has won several awards, including eight ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association, and three APRA Awards/AGSC from either the Australasian Performing Right Association alone or together with the Australian Guild of Screen Composers. APRA also named "To Her Door", solely written by Kelly,[2] and "Treaty", written by Kelly and members of Yothu Yindi,[3] in their Top 30 best Australian songs of all time in 2001.[15] Kelly was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997 alongside The Bee Gees and Graeme Bell.[14][125] He has also won five Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) Awards and four Mo Awards (Australian entertainment industry).[126][127][128][129]

See also


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External links

Simple English

Paul Kelly
File:Paul Kelly
Background information
Birth name Paul Maurice Kelly
Born January 13, 1955(1955-01-13)
Origin Adelaide, Australia
Genres Acoustic, Folk rock, Australian rock
Occupations Musician
Instruments vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1974–current
Labels Mushroom Records
A&M Records
EMI Records
Capitol Records
Associated acts Paul Kelly and the Dots
Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls
Paul Kelly and the Messengers
Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys
Stardust Five
Professor Ratbaggy
Website Official website

Paul Maurice Kelly[1][2] was born on 13 January 1955 in Adelaide, South Australia)[3]. Kelly is an Australian rock music singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player.[4] Kelly has led many groups including Paul Kelly and the Dots, Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls and Paul Kelly and the Messengers.[4] Kelly is one of Australia's best singer-songwriters.[5][6]. His importance was recognised in 1997 when he was added to the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame.[7][8]

Kelly writes and plays in many music styles, from bluegrass to reggae. His main styles are folk, rock, and country.[5][6] Kelly's Top 40 singles on the National charts were his 1980s songs "Billy Baxter", "Before Too Long", "Darling it Hurts", "To Her Door", "Dumb Things", and his 2000 single "Roll on Summer".[5][9][10] "To Her Door", written by Kelly,[1] was his best local hit. It got to Number 14 on the Australian singles charts in 1987 [9]. "Dumb Things" got to Number 16 on the US Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1988.[11] He has also had success with his albums with Top 20 hits on the National charts for Gossip, Under The Sun and So Much Water So Close To Home from the 1980s;[9][10] Comedy, Wanted Man, Songs from the South: Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits and Words and Music from the 1990s;[10] and Nothing But A Dream, Ways & Means and Stolen Apples from the 2000s.[10] The compilation album Songs from the South got to Number 2 in 1997. His highest charting studio album was Nothing But A Dream which got to Number 7 in 2001.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA). Retrieved 2008-08-20.  Note: requires user to input song title e.g. TO HER DOOR
  2. "The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)". ASCAP.,s,w,p,b,v&results_pp=20&start=1. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  3. "Paul Kelly biography". Music Australia. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Magnus Holmgren, ed. "Paul Kelly". Australian Rock Database. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 McFarlane, Ian (1999). Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ed Nimmervol, ed. "Paul Kelly". Howlspace. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  7. "ARIA 2008 Hall of Fame inductees listing". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  8. "Winners by Award: Hall of Fame". ARIA. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Kent, David (1993) (doc). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W.. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 "Discography Paul Kelly". Australian Charts Portal. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  11. "Billboard singles charts". allmusic. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 

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