Michael Hutchence

(Singer, songwriter, musician, poet, actor)

As frontman of one of rock’s biggest bands, Michael Hutchence threw a number of flame torches up in the air like a circus performer.

On the one hand, he was a sex symbol, heightening the sensuality oozing out of INXS’s rock/ funk/ disco grooves with compelling looks, long curly hair and a lithe body that moved like a black panther.

But he was also a cult hero who read and wrote poetry, took part in art movies and recorded fringe music with underground musicians.

He liked the idea of throwing his fate to the wind.

“I’ve never tried to emulate anyone or hero worshipped anybody,” he said. “I get turned on by their attitudes.”

Like his poetry, he took his lyrics seriously. “What defines us as human beings is the way we talk,” he explained.

Michael Kelland John Hutchence was born in Sydney on January 22,1960 to businessman Kell Hutchence and make-up artist Patricia Glassop.

Kell’s business took him to Hong Kong where Michael and his younger brother Rhett attended Beacon Hill School in Kowloon Tong.

He showed promise as a swimmer but that stopped after he broke his arm. He performed his first song in a local toy store commercial. 

The family returned to Sydney in 1972, and 12-year old Michael went to Davidson High School. 

He was being bullied in the school yard one day when a kid called Andrew Farriss intervened.

They became best friends, and Andrew invited him to join his band Doctor Dolphin.

Michael’s parents divorced when he was 15. For a time he lived with his mother and half-sister Tina in California and attended Hollywood High with many future film stars.

He then returned to Sydney with his mother, and the journey to superstardom began.

As Michael grew into his dynamic stage persona (“he was clearly born to be onstage”, a journalist noted) it was obvious how fast he was becoming confident.

He made INXS songs come alive with the way he infused his wide vocal range (from the bass B1 to the high tenor F#5) with such character.

At the same time, his jetset lifestyle, flashy clothes and expensive cars, homes around the world, and close friendships with U2’s Bono and Duran Duran, brought him to the relentless attention of the British tabloids.

Asked about his favourite INXS albums he chose Kick, Welcome To Wherever You Are and Elegantly Wasted.

“They showed how unique we are as a band. We’re stubborn. We don’t jump on bandwagons. We do what we want to.”

In August 1992, Michael was involved in a street altercation with a taxi driver in Copenhagen. Michael fell and hit his head on the pavement. 

He fractured his skull. It robbed him of smell and taste, and left him with an erratic personality.

He continued to record and perform with INXS.

On the morning of November 22, before an Australian tour, he died tragically in Room 524 at the Ritz-Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney. He was 37.

Amidst a worldwide outpouring of grief by fans and fellow musicians, Michael’s funeral at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, on November 27, was broadcast on TV (Nick Cave sang “Into My Arms”) and his ashes were scattered into Sydney Harbour, in Rose Bay.

A memorial is at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, North Ryde.

A half-completed self-titled solo album was finished by friends and released October 1999.

Among songs written in tribute after his death were Duran Duran’s “Michael, You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For” (1997), Smashing Pumpkins’ “Shame” (1998), The Church’s “This Is It” (1998), U2’s “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” (2001), Kylie Minogue’s “Bittersweet Goodbye” (2001) and Berlin’s “Sacred And Profane” (2002).

Michael is survived by his daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof.

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