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Day the music died: Industry giant Michael Gudinski dead at 68

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Michael Gudinski, a towering figure in Australia’s music industry and the founder of Mushroom Records, has died suddenly aged 68.

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Mushroom Group, the entertainment business that Gudinski founded in 1972, confirmed he died in his sleep on Monday night at his Melbourne home.

The promoter and record label boss was a towering figure in Australian entertainment, with Mushroom expanding into touring, publishing, booking agencies and film and TV production.

Rock star Jimmy Barnes paid a heartfelt tribute to his close friend on Tuesday.

“Michael was the rock I reached for when life tried to wash me away,” he said.

Barnes said Gudinski had stood by him “through my darkest moments and my most joyous days”, and had always been there for anyone who needed him.

He said the Australian music business had changed and grown because of Gudinski.

“Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out,” he said.

“His boundless enthusiasm breathed life into our music scene.”

Bruce Springsteen also issued a statement saying he had never met a better promoter than Gudinski.

“Michael always spoke with a deep, rumbling voice and the words would spill out so fast that half the time I needed an interpreter,” Springsteen said.

“But I could hear him clear as bell when he would say ‘Bruce, I’ve got you covered’. And he always did.

“He was loud, always in motion, intentionally (and unintentionally) hilarious and deeply soulful. He will be remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they set foot on Australian soil. My deepest condolences to his wife and partner, Sue, and to the whole Gudinski family, of which he was so proud.”

Frontier Touring, founded under the Mushroom umbrella in 1979, is one of the key concert promotion companies in Australia and New Zealand.

Gudinski launched the music careers of fellow Melburnians Kylie and Dannii Minogue and many other acts, including Skyhooks, Paul Kelly, and more recently Eskimo Joe and Evermore.

He signed the early Finn brothers band Split Enz, which became a hit act for Mushroom in the 1980s.

On Tuesday Neil Finn said Gudinski was one of a kind.

“He was a titan of Australian music with an energy and commitment that was exhilarating to watch,” Finn said.

“So many pivotal and historic moments of Australian music rotated around his passions and strong will to succeed.”

A statement from Mushroom said: “A larger-than-life figure, Michael was widely respected for his unwavering passion for all music – in particular Australian music”.

“Michael was renowned for his loyalty and dedication. His ability to achieve the unachievable against unsurmountable odds was proven time and again and spoke to his absolute passion for his career and life.”

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe was among the first to post a tribute to Gudinski on social media.

“Seems almost impossible. A towering figure on the Australian cultural landscape,” Crowe tweeted.

“I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything … still didn’t stop us from being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply. My love to his family.”

Federal Labor’s arts spokesman Tony Burke said he counted Gudinski as a friend.

“I liked him a lot. I’ll miss him a lot. The story of Australian music will always have Michael in a lead role. Half larrikin half genius, he made sure our nation had its own soundtrack,” Burke said.

Most recently, Gudinski developed the Music From The Home Front TV concert to showcase the local music industry as it struggled through the coronavirus pandemic.

Gudinski is survived by his wife Sue, son Matt, daughter Kate and two grandchildren.

“Michael often referred to his 200+ staff as the Mushroom Family, with many having clocked decades in his employment,” the company said.

-AAP

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