Singer songwriter Jon English dies days before Newcastle show

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JON English has been remembered across the world as a multi-talented singer-songwriter, actor and star of both rock musicals and theatre.

But the many Hunter friends he made on regular trips to the region are also cherishing the off-stage memories they made with their mate, who they describe as warm, humble, generous and larger than life.

“He was my mentor, friend, bandmate, inspiration and a really easy guy to get along with,” said Newcastle-based musician Amy Vee.

“He had so many great stories to tell because he lived such a rich and wonderful life.”

The British born Logie winner, 66, passed away peacefully on Wednesday night after suffering post operative complications.

English was in the middle of an Australian tour and was scheduled to appear at the Beaumont Street Carnivale on Sunday, but announced on Monday he had to cancel the show “on the advice of his doctors”.

Festival organisers will commemorate English’s contribution to the country by holding a minute’s silence on Sunday.

He had also been planning to spend Saturday watching Amy Vee perform in the closing night of Evita at the Civic Theatre. The pair met when English saw Vee perform in Rent at The Playhouse.

Vee said they had been in close contact over the past week and she had brought him flowers in hospital.

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“I commented when I saw him that he looked well, all things considered,” said Vee, who described herself as “utterly broken” by English’s death.

“We sat and chatted and he was in great spirits.

“He was scheduled to have surgery but it should have been pretty routine, so this is a shock to us all.”

English cast Vee as the lead in his 2009 production Buskers and Angels. She has toured with him consistently since 2011.

“I’ve got so much to thank him for and owe him so much,” she said.

“He took me under his wing and I learned so much from him, it was a great opportunity to hone my craft.

“He’s a national treasure and made such a lasting impact on all the people who met him.”

Lizotte’s proprietor Brian Lizotte was working in catering on Jesus Christ Superstar when he met English.

Over the past 12 years, English became a regular fixture on the Lizotte’s calendar and performed at the venues about twice a year.

“He became part of our family,” Lizotte said.

“He loaded in his own gear and was the first one to get there and the last one to leave after meeting fans and having a few drinks with staff.”

English was one of the last musicians to perform at the now-closed Kincumber venue and spent an afternoon commiserating on the deck.

Rock City Event Marketing director Peter Anderson said his company had worked with English since about 1980 and scheduled performances every 18 months to two years.

“Jon was a regular visitor to the Hunter and his death is a loss for the region,” Mr Anderson said.

“Most people over 35 would have seen a Jon English performance.”

Mr Anderson said English played at venues including the former Newcastle Workers Club, Wests Leagues Club, in Muswellbrook, Cessnock and the Central Coast and in musicals at the Civic Theatre.

English often stayed at the Boulevard On Beaumont.

“He had a very strong following here,” Ms Anderson said. “He had a unique voice, he does not sound like anyone else, he sounds like Jon English.

“He had a number of strong hits over the years that he mixed with more recent material and had quality musicians around him.

“He was just larger than life and absolutely able to engage with an audience and share his enthusiasm.”

EARLIER, 9AM: SINGER songwriter Jon English has died, days before he was scheduled to appear at the Beaumont Street Carnivale in Newcastle.
English passed away peacefully on Wednesday night after suffering post-operative complications.

The British-born Logie winner, 66, was surrounded by his four children and close family members.
A post on English’s Facebook page on Thursday morning read: “We are needless to say completely shocked and devastated by this enormous and unexpected loss. The music industry, and indeed the world, has lost an incredible talent and the biggest of big hearts.”

“We are inconsolable and will miss you immeasurably.”

English was in the middle of an Australian tour, but announced on Monday that he had cancelled his Sunday show in Newcastle “on the advice of his doctors”.

The singer had also been planning to spend Saturday night watching close friend Amy Vee perform in the final night of Evita at the Civic Theatre.

The pair met in 2009 when English saw Vee perform in Rent at The Playhouse.

Vee has toured consistently over the past few years with English, who she described as a “mentor, friend, bandmate, inspiration and a really easy guy to get along with”.

She said they had been in close contact over the past week and she had visited him in hospital.

“I commented when I saw him that he looked well, all things considered,” Vee said.

“He was scheduled to have surgery but it should have been pretty routine, so this is a shock to us all.

“He was a national treasure and made such a lasting impact on all the people who met him.”

Beaumont Street Carnivale organisers described English as a “seasoned entertainer and no stranger to Hamilton festival stages”, but said the show would go on.

“The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Beaumont St Carnivale event team are saddened by this enormous loss of talent and will fondly remember Jon on Sunday, commemorating his contribution to Australian culture with a minute’s silence,” organisers said in a statement.

“Jon was one of the few Australian performers to combine a successful career in music, television and stage.”

Lizotte’s proprietor Brian Lizotte said he first met English when working in catering for Jesus Christ Superstar.

He said English would later perform at the three Lizotte’s venues about twice a year.

“He became part of our family,” Lizotte said.

“We’d try to help him load in but he always said ‘No, I’m fine’.

“He was the first one to get there and the last one to leave after meeting fans and having a few drinks with staff. He was a hard, hard working man and his love of entertaining really shone through.”

Lizotte said there was always an upcoming Jon English show on his venue’s bill.

“The fans would come back time and time and time again, we had five year olds and 95 year olds in the crowd,” he said. “Every show was different.

“He will be missed for so many reasons – I’m very sad not to have that man grace our stages again.”

Rock City Event Marketing director Peter Anderson said his company had been working with Mr English longer than any other artist on its books.

“Jon was a regular visitor to the Hunter and his death is a loss for the region,” Mr Anderson said.

“Most people over the age of 35 would have seen a Jon English performance, either a theatrical show or a concert.

“He was just larger than life and absolutely able to engage with an audience and share his enthusiasm.”

English migrated to Australia with his parents at the age of 12 and rose to fame in the early 70s after starring in Harry M Miller’s first production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

He released dozens of chart-topping singles in the 70s and 80s including Words Are Not Enough, Handbags and Gladrags, Turn the Page and Hollywood Seven.

His 1979 song Six Ribbons topped the charts in Europe and he received several Logie Awards for his acting in series Against the Wind.

He also played the lead role of Bobby Rivers in 1990s Australian sitcom All Together Now opposite Rebecca Gibney and Today weather presenter Steven Jacobs.

Jacobs paid tribute to English on Twitter on Thursday morning, hailing him as a “true rock legend” and “gentleman”. Gibney said his passing was “so incredibly sad”.

“All Together Now was one of the joys of my career. My love to his family,” she wrote.

source:theherald.com.au

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