March 6, 2018 – Legendary Australian performer Jeff St John has died after a log illness at the age of 71.
St John’s Facebook page administrator Mark Naumann announced the news this morning. “Today my life has been filled with sadness, as I have the heart-breaking duty of announcing officially that Jeffrey St John has passed away. He has been unwell for the past while as many of you know, but finally he was unable to conquer the ailments that he has spent a lifetime battling. Australia has lost it’s finest voice.”
“For us left behind – those he called ‘my people’, we have enduring and loving memories that will never fade,” continued Naumann. “He was a Poet, Singer, Author, Artist, Son, Brother, Father and Partner. He once told me ‘take a big bite of life and chew like hell’ – and that is exactly how he lived his life. After all these years Jeffrey, you have now learned to fly – and fly you will. Farewell my friend, I am honoured to have been a small part in your journey through life. My sincere condolences and love to Marilyn and family, and Pamela and Family.”
Born with spina bifida, St John had been performing since childhood and made his first appearance on radio at the age of 8. By the age of 15 he could be seen on a TV talent show and in the mid-60s joined Sydney group The Syndicate.
Later, Jeff St John and The Id enjoyed a huge hit with the brass-driven single, ‘Big Time Operator’, which reached #7 in Sydney and #12 in Melbourne in January 1967. Their debut single “Lindy Lou” / “Somebody To Love” had been released in 1965 on the Spin label and was followed in early ’66 by ‘The Jerk’ / ‘Take This Hurt Off Me’. They also released a version of Leadbelly’s ‘Black Girl’.
St John left The Id and put together an entirely new band, Yama (a Hindi word meaning ‘mere mortals’). Yama folded in May 1968 after issuing just one single for the Spin label, ‘Nothing Comes Easy’ and St John underwent a series of operations that left him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
After recovering from the operations St John unveiled a new band, Copperwine in early 1969. They played at the Ourimbah Pilgrimage For Pop – Australia’s first major outdoor rock festival – at the end of January 1970. The group had a #3 hit with the song ‘Teach Me How To Fly’ in November 1970. Wendy Saddington joined as co-lead vocalist in May 1970 and they recorded the classic album Wendy Saddington & Copperwine Live at the Wallacia Festival in January 1971.
St John became the first Australian artist to sign to the US Asylum label and reached the Top 10 in 1977 with ‘Fool In Love,’ written by Frankie Miller and Andy Fraser.
St John continued to perform through the 70s and into the early 80s but in 1983, at the age of 37, he announced his retirement, making his farewell appearance on Donnie Sutherland’s late night show After Dark.
St John moved to Perth in the late 1990s and he returned to music, making the album Will The Real Jeff St John Please Stand Up? in 2001.
On 18 October 2000, the wheelchair-bound St John was on the main podium at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Paralympic Games, singing the national anthem.
In 2016 St John published his autobiography Insider-Outsider: The Jeff St John Story.