Fifteen Years Without Michael Hutchence, INXS’ Singer

Michael H

Michael Hutchence (INXS)

Fifteen years ago, on November 22, 1997, INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, 37, was found dead in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia. After Hutchence failed to appear for a morning appointment with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a Ritz Carlton employee entered Hutchence’s room and found the body of the singer hanging in the room.

Hutchence, who lived in London, had arrived in Sydney to make final preparations for the INXS 20th anniversary “Lose Your Head” tour scheduled to kick off Tuesday in Wollongong.

A friend of Hutchence told detectives that they had made plans to meet later that day, and that the singer “didn’t sound like he had any intention of taking his life.”

Rock music commentator Ian Meldrum, in a statement to the Associated Press, noted that when he last saw Hutchence eight weeks ago, the singer didn’t seem overly troubled. “I’ve never seen Michael more peaceful and happier in his life,” he said.

Former girlfriend Kym Wilson and her then boyfriend, Andrew Reyment, were the last people to see Hutchence alive when they left him at 4:50 am; he was still awaiting a phone call from his partner and mother of his child Tiger Lily, Paula Yates, in London concerning whether she would bring their daughter Tiger to Australia. Hutchence’s second last outgoing phone call was to his personal manager, Martha Troup’s voice-mail, “Marth, Michael here. I’ve fucking had enough”. When Troup returned the call there was no answer. At 9:54 am he talked to his former longtime girlfriend, Michele Bennett, who stated that he was crying, sounded upset and said he needed to see her. Bennett arrived at his door at about 10:40 am but, there was no response. Hutchence’s body was discovered by a hotel employee at 11:50 am.

The local police removed a leather belt and several prescription drugs from the scene, and although the Australian Associated Press reported it as an apparent suicide, the official cause of death had not been yet determined. As of 6 p.m. EST, no suicide note had been found.

The INXS tour, which was to have been the group’s first in Australia in more than three years, was canceled. INXS formed in Perth in 1977 and released four well-received albums on an independent label. The band’s major label debut, Listen Like Thieves (1985) was their first real commercial breakthrough, peaking at No. 11 on U.S. charts largely on the strength of the single, “What You Need.”

The success of Listen Like Thieves served as an appropriate prelude for INXS’s next album, Kick. Released in 1987, Kick sold nine million copies and featured four hit singles — “Need You Tonight,” “Devil Inside,” “New Sensation,” and “Never Tear Us Apart.”

Although record sales had fallen off in the last few years, Hutchence still retained celebrity status in Australia due in good measure to his well-publicized romances with pop star Kylie Minogue, model Helena Christensen and Paula Yates, ex-wife of rock star and Live Aid planner Bob Geldof. Hutchence and Yates have a daughter, Tiger Lily.

During his relationship with Helena Christensen, the couple were cycling when he collided with a taxi and its driver assaulted him. As a result, Hutchence’s fractured skull left him with substantial loss of the sense of smell and partial loss of taste. This led to periods of depression and increased levels of aggression; he had not fully recovered after two weeks in a Copenhagen hospital.

Although police confirmed that Hutchence’s death was caused by hanging, they had yet to determine whether it was suicide or accidental death by asphyxiation.

Derrick Hand, the state coroner, later told the Sydney Morning Herald that a post-mortem examination had concluded that the singer in fact hanged himself in his fifth-floor suite of the posh Ritz Carlton hotel with a leather belt.

Hand went on to say, contradicting his earlier statement, that they were still unsure if Hutchence had committed suicide; results of a toxicology report conducted were not expected for a few weeks. Police confirmed that no foul play was involved in the death and that no illicit drugs were found in the room. However, Hutchence was found hanging naked in the room with a variety of prescription pills, including the anti-depressant drug Prozac strewn across the floor, the paper reported.

In a statement issued by Mercury Records, members of INXS said they are all in extreme shock at the loss of their dear friend. Hutchence’s funeral was held in Sydney.

It was widely reported that Hutchence died of autoerotic asphyxiation, but some members of his family and friends thought he died of suicide after a long bout of depression. He was in a custody battle with Paula Yates over their daughter, Tiger Lily.

INXS fans the world over wanted to celebrate what would have been the 50th birthday of the late Michael Hutchence in a special way — by sending 1982 hit ‘Don’t Change’ to the No. 1 spot on iTunes. They couldn’t pick a better INXS song to buy all over again.

Musician and actor Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, Australia on Jan. 22, 1960. He was a founding member and the lead singer and lyricist of rock band INXS from 1977 to his death in his native city on Nov. 22, 1997 — from what the New South Wales Coroner deemed “suicide.” However, controversy and conspiracy still swirl about the fallen artist. A Belushi’s worth of drugs were found in his system. Plus Paula Yates, the mother of his daughter Tiger Lily Hutchence, claimed he died from autoerotic asphyxiation. Yates died of heroin overdose in 2000.

According to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, “Hutchence was the archetypal rock showman. He exuded an overtly sexual, macho cool with his flowing locks, and lithe and exuberant stage movements”. Michael Hutchence won the ‘Best International Artist’ at the 1991 BRIT Awards with INXS winning the related group award.

His private life was often reported in the Australian and international press, with a string of love affairs with prominent actresses, models and singers. Michael once wrote: “I know all’s fair in love and war but when you go off and try to be by yourself and it ends up on the front page of the press it’s frightening, knowing your life is under such scrutiny.”

Hutchence’s relationship with UK television presenter Paula Yates began while she was divorcing the music artist and Live Aid organizer, Bob Geldof. In 2000, Yates died of an overdose and her daughter was placed in Geldof’s custody with her half-sisters.

The life of Michael Hutchence is heading to the big screen. ‘Two Worlds Colliding,’ named after a line in the INXS track “Never Tear Us Apart,” is based upon on the book Just a Man: The Real Michael Hutchence, written by the singer’s mother and sister.

The screenplay’s writer, Bobby Galinsky, tells Australia’s 702 Sydney that the film is “from the family’s side as Michael being a son, a brother, a friend. It’s not a sex, drugs and rock and roll tabloid situation.” Casting is set to begin next year, allowing Hollywood executives enough time to talk Galinsky into adding a little sex, drugs and rock & roll…

By the way, if you missed it, Rolling Stone magazine did an excellent flashback to Hutchence on what would have been the singer’s 50th birthday. See video below.

Meanwhile, a documentary on the INXS singer’s life is being put together by Michael’s former manager, Martha Troup. She set up a trust after his death in 1997 to “develop projects that highlight Michael’s genius” and said she’s talking to producers and directors about the documentary, despite INXS refusing to give her permission to use any of their songs for the project. “A documentary is going to be made. I will make sure, no matter what, and I hope it is with everybody’s blessing,” she said.

Uploaded on Jun 19, 2010
INXS and Michael Hutchence performance at Wembley , on July 13, 1991 – from the DVD “Live Baby Live”

Rolling Stone: What would have been INXS frontman Michael Hutchence’s 50th birthday. To pay tribute to the singer, who died in November 1997, his bandmates have released statements remembering his poetic gifts and personal achievements. Watch INXS in their prime with a 1991 performance of “Need You Tonight” from London’s Wembley Stadium, then read on below as the three Farriss brothers, Kirk Pengilly and Gary Beers celebrate Michael’s memory.

Kirk Pengilly:
“As a performer, he was one of the best.
As a humanitarian, he made you feel human.
As a singer, he was blessed with the constitution of an ox and never
As a friend, you felt like you were his best.
As a writer, he was an enlightened poet.
I will always remember him. Michael loved and embraced life in every
direction. So here’s to you mate. See you when I see you…”

Tim Farriss:
“INXS were/are a ‘Band Of Brothers’, literally. The original six, ‘Band Of Brothers’ sipping the wine, savouring the food and the fruits of our labour and lives spent together. Climbing the endless mountains, overcoming everything we possibly could.. and we did!! We did IT Michael!”

Jon Farriss:
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Michael. I feel privileged to have known Michael on so many levels. He was a confidant, a musical partner, a song-writing partner, a touring partner, a business partner, a performing partner, and a party partner, a ‘Howdy Partner’, a band mate, a live in flat mate and as an extension of my family. We are family.”

Garry Beers:
“I first met Michael when he was about 13 years old. He became the lead singer of my first proper band with Andrew called Dr Dolphin. The things that really struck me about Michael back in those days was his compassion and his great sense of humour. I miss Michael, but luckily for me he lives on in my dreams.”

Related posts:
In Memoriam: INXS’Michael Hutchence
The Loved One, INXS’ Michael Hutchence – Documentary + Tributes
What Happened To Michael Hutchence’s Fortune? Hutchence millions kiss dirt, leaving family with zilch

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