Men At Work flautist 'devastated by song theft case' is found dead at home


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The Independent Online

Greg Ham, musician with Australian band Men At Work, has been found dead at his home in Melbourne.

In 1983, he and the rest of the band had a smash hit with "Down Under", but two years ago they were found by a court to have copied the song's riff.

Two friends who had not heard from Ham in some time found his body after going to check on him. Police declined to say how he died.

"There are a number of unexplained aspects to it which has caused our attendance here today and we're assisting the local detectives to determine what has occurred," Detective Senior Sergeant Shane O'Connell said.

Colin Hay, the band's frontman, spoke last night of a deep love for his longtime friend, whom he met in 1972 at school. "We played in a band and conquered the world together," Hay said. "I love him very much. He's a beautiful man." Ham played the flute riff on "Down Under", but in 2010 a judge ordered a portion of the royalties to be given to the publisher of the children's campfire song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree". Ham later said the controversy had left him devastated and he worried it would tarnish his legacy.

"It has destroyed so much of my song," he told Melbourne's The Age newspaper after the court ruling. "It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that. I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered – for copying something."

Ham also played the saxophone and keyboards and more recently worked as a guitar teacher.

"Down Under" and the album from which it came, Business As Usual, topped the Australian, American and British charts in early 1983. The song remains an unofficial anthem for Australia and was ranked fourth in a 2001 music industry survey of the best Australian songs. Men at Work won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Rock historian Glenn Baker, who was Australian editor of Billboard magazine when Men At Work were at their peak touring the world, recalled Ham as bursting with energy.

"When they came back (from tour), it was generally Greg who I would interview because he'd tell the best stories and he was effervescent, energetic, good fun, good-humored and good-natured," Baker said. "He was having a great time."