When iconic performer Jon English passed away on the 9th March 2016, Australia lost one of its most important and prolific ambassadors of the arts. In a fitting tribute, some of his closest friends and colleagues have come together in his honour for a special concert – ‘SIX RIBBONS’, remembering Jon English – in Melbourne on the first anniversary of his passing to remember the life and music of a man who made an indelible imprint on the Australian music landscape.
Hosted by Peter Cupples (Stylus) – Jon’s long-time friend and musical cohort of more than two decades – the evening will feature performances from a raft of special guest artists and musicians including Dave Gleeson (The Screaming Jets / The Angels), Wilbur Wilde (Ol’ 55 / Hey Hey It’s Saturday), The Chantoozies, Brian Mannix (Uncanny X-Men), Scott Carne (Kids in the Kitchen), Wendy Stapleton (Wendy and the Rockets), Lisa Edwards and Lindsay Field (John Farnham’s band), James Morley (ex- The Angels), Bloom (Amanda Canzurlo) and the Jon English Trilogy of Rock band, plus many more special guests. The two-and-a-half-hour tribute will celebrate the life of the extraordinary man who touched so many with his music and artistic endeavours and showcase a little bit from every facet of his career – from his music hits to his stage shows and TV appearances.
Jon English effortlessly worked across music, television and stage in a career that spanned over four decades. From the early 1970s when he stepped into the role of Judas in the enormously successful production of Jesus Christ Superstar, to his Logie-winning performances in Against the Wind, Jon tackled everything with a tenacity that soon saw him became a household name. He had no less than 16 music albums to his credit when he passed away, and was about to fly to Sweden to record another, and had also penned a rock opera Paris. He also received acclaim for his theatre performances as the dashing Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance and on the other side of the coin, as the loveable larrikin Bobby Rivers on TV show All Together Now. His awards are too numerous to mention – ARIAs, Logies, MO Awards, etc – and his hits, Turn the Page, Hollywood 7, Handbags and Gladrags, Six Ribbons and the list goes on. He was an Australian music legend and few following in his footsteps will ever have a career as diverse or successful.
The ‘SIX RIBBONS’, remembering Jon English show is a labour of love for Jon’s long-term partner and manager Coralea Cameron who is dedicated to keeping Jon’s music and memory alive. She says the concept for the show came about in October last year. Jon was scheduled to perform on the Rock The Boat cruise the months after his passing – a cruise he had been part of two years prior. The organisers didn’t want to find a replacement for him on the October 2016 cruise – which also featured John Paul Young and John Farnham – so instead it turned into a Six Ribbons tribute to Jon, put together by Coralea and hosted by Peter Cupples.
“It went so beautifully and was so well received that afterwards the artists on board taking part said to me, ‘when are we doing it again’,” says Coralea. “That’s when I first thought of doing this concert for Jon on the anniversary of his passing. As most of the artists were Melbourne-based, it was the obvious choice for venue location – particularly as the public memorial was held in Sydney and a lot of people in Melbourne couldn’t go. I chose the Athenaeum Theatre as it has a statue of the Greek Goddess Athena on the front façade, which reminded me of the rock opera Paris that Jon wrote about the Trojan War. It was his life’s work to see it staged, so it seemed appropriate.”
When it came to asking friends and colleagues to be involved with the show, the list was almost endless. Coralea says it is certainly going to be a big night. “I asked those who had played with Jon if they were available to take part,” she says. There is now a cast of thousands. Dave Gleeson shared a stage with Jon at the Sweden Rock Festival and was to sing a duet on Jon’s new album, so I approached him also. Wilbur Wilde was booked as a special guest on the Rock Show Oz Edition tour that Jon had planned for last year, so he was another obvious choice to ask. I don’t know where everyone is going to fit on the stage, but fit them we will.”
For Coralea, she believes the evening would have meant a lot to Jon. “I think he’d be humbled and honoured,” she says. “Not so much for himself, but for his fans. I believe in my heart it would mean a lot to him that his peers and colleagues were willing to get together and sing and play his songs for his fans to enjoy. There will be fun, laughter, tears and stories – and a couple of surprises, but mostly a rockin’ good time, as I believe he would have wanted. We’re aiming for a full house and a standing ovation in his memory.”
‘SIX RIBBONS’, remembering Jon English proudly supports the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Appeal. For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/events/403001003423008/