One of Australia’s best loved rock stars and the lead singer of The Easybeats, Stevie Wright, has died aged 68.
Reports of his death were first published on The Noise11 music website, which said he had fallen ill on Boxing Day and then died in Moruya Hospital on the NSW south coast on Sunday night. The hospital said it could not comment on patient matters.
Rock historian Glenn A. Baker confirmed to radio station 6PR he had been informed of the rock legend’s death.
Wright was a migrant, born in Leeds, England in 1948, he came to Australia with his family when he was nine years old, living in Melbourne first and then Sydney.
He formed The Easybeats in 1964 at the age of just 16 with a group of other young migrant teenagers – Harry Vanda, George Young, Dick Diamonde and Snowy Fleet. Within a few years the band had become one of Australia’s most popular musical groups, inspiring their own brand of Beatles-style fandom, dubbed ‘Easyfever’.
Their best known song, Friday On My Mind, reached the number one spot on the music chart in Australia in 1966, and later went on to become a top ten single in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy and a top 20 hit in the United States, according to
The song was later covered by David Bowie on his Pin-Ups album.
In 1967, the band toured as the supporting act for the Rolling Stones and released several successful albums.
The band split up in 1969, but Wright had another major hit with Vanda and Young in 1974 with the 11-minute Evie.
Wright struggled with substance abuse for decades, including an addiction to heroin, which he was introduced to to while starring in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972.
He underwent treatment, including now notorious ‘Deep Sleep Therapy’ at Chelmsford Hospital, which involved electric shock treatment. Dozens of patients died following the therapy, and it left its mark on Wright. He went on to suffer from alcoholism and bouts of violent psychosis.
Asked on ABC’s Australian Story whether there were things in his life he would not do again if he had the chance, Wright said “I wouldn’t pick up any hard drugs… It can destroy, it does destroy.”
He and partner Fay Walker told the program in 2013 that he had been off alcohol for 20 years and heroin for 12 years, though he now suffered from liver and kidney problems, and was a diabetic.
The Easybeats were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2005.