A Rock Star Remembered: Michael Hutchence

The Australian rock star Michael Hutchence

The Australian rock star Michael Hutchence

I’m struck by how good a rock singer Michael Hutchence was. He could either belt it out or croon effortlessly where other singers would strain, and the timbre of his voice was perfectly suited to the songs. He was also one of the best rock performers. Here are some videos.

Gone but not forgotten

Michael Kelland John Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) was an Australian musician and actor. He was a founding member and the lead singer and lyricist of rock band INXS from 1977 until his death in 1997.

Hutchence was a member of short-lived pop rock group Max Q and recorded solo material which was released posthumously. He acted in feature films, including Dogs in Space (1986), Frankenstein Unbound (1990) and Limp (1997). 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”. 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. Hutchence’s relationship with UK television presenter Paula Yates began while she was divorcing musician and Live Aid organiser, Bob Geldof. Hutchence and Yates had a daughter in 1996.

On the morning of 22 November 1997, Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney. His death was reported by the New South Wales Coroner to be the result of suicide. In 2000, Yates died of a heroin overdose. The couple’s daughter was placed in Geldof’s custody with her half-sisters.

Of all the possible causes of Hutchence’s final depression, the one that the coroner highlighted was his relationship with Paula Yates and the pressures of the dispute with Geldof. The coroner concluded that the depression was also caused by a cocktail of drugs found in Hutchence’s blood: alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and what Hand described only as “other prescription drugs”. What were these? And how harmful were they when combined with a drug like Prozac? The coroner’s report raised more questions than it answered.

Hutchence’s affairs in death are as tangled as they were in life. In the last few weeks, it has emerged that his estate, worth about pounds 8 million, has been hidden in a complex web of discretionary trusts and holding companies stretching through Hong Kong, Australia, the British Virgin Islands and Europe. His will gave half his estate to Tiger Lily with the other half divided equally between Paula Yates, his father, brother, sister and his mother, even though he remained estranged from her. But, when he died, Hutchence was technically bankrupt.

The web of companies controlling Hutchence’s assets was reputedly designed to minimise the tax liabilities on his income. Many of the companies have as a director Colin Diamond, Hutchence’s New Zealand-based financial adviser and a co-executor of his will. But the impact of the financial arrangements that Hutchence left in Diamond’s hands means that the beneficiaries may face a long battle in securing assets that they believe are rightfully theirs. Hutchence owned houses in Smith Terrace, London SW3, and Antibes in the south of France. These and other properties in Australia are not listed as part of his estate. The London house, for example, is owned by a company in the British Virgin Islands.

After his cremation, Hutchence’s ashes were divided between his family and Paula and Tiger Lily. Sacrilege to some, but an unavoidable outcome, it seemed, of his stormy, unreconciled life.

A few weeks later, the surviving members of INXS, together with Michele Bennett and a handful of Hutchence’s old friends, joined his father and brother on a yacht in Sydney Harbour. It was 21 January 1998, the day Michael would have turned 38. They swapped stories about him; then, as a Maori singer sang “Amazing Grace”, Kell and Rhett Hutchence moved to the bow of the boat. They held each other as they tipped their son and brother’s ashes overboard. As the boat moved slowly away, the evening sky turned bright red and the waters of Sydney Harbour went perfectly still.

The following article was published in 1998 in THE EXPRESS, UK. We don’t copy articles of Tabloids, but I think this one expresses what many of Michael’s fans were feeling.

Pathetic Paula makes mockery of love and loss

She broke our hearts as the woman mourning a soul mate. No she insults those who truly grieve, says Amanda Platell

Out of step: Paula Yates claimed INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence was the only man for her. Yet 10 months after his death she is romancing heroin addict Kingsley O’Keke while her daughter Tiger Lily is being cared for by friends in Australia.

When pictures of Paula Yates first appeared late last year at the funeral of her lover Michael Hutchence, I was able for the first time to see beyond the cleavage, in fact to see only the pain etched on her face. The dark glasses could not hide the anguish. She clutched their child Tiger Lily, who she describes as “a little, tiny Michael”, as if that small baby was all that stood between her and the abyss.

For the first time, my heart went out to her, simply because she was a young woman and mother who had lost the one great love of her life. We were all able to forget the publicity-seeking, self-centred rock chick who seemed incapable of existing out of the spotlight. We gave her the benefit of the doubt.

And it is for that very reason that the images this week of a pale and almost girlish Paula walking arm in arm with her new partner were so shocking. Not at all shocking that she was with a man 10 years her junior, nor shocking that he bore an uncanny resemblance to her dead lover, but that she was with another man at all.

Paula said after Michael’s death that she would never have another love, never have another partner. “I waited a long, long time to be with Michael and now I’ll wait a long time to be with him again.” And part of us believed her, or at least wanted to believe her. Her grief was almost tangible

As for thousands of people throughout the country, Paula’s very public grieving after the death of Michael Hutchence touched a nerve. For anyone who has lost someone they love, the sight of a funeral procession is an eternally painful one. We empathise, we suffer again our own loss.

The grieving Paula reminded me of another Michael, also Australian, who died too young and of the young woman left heartbroken. And the sight of Tiger Lily brought back images, still too vivid to be recalled without tears, of tow small children holding their mother’s hand, one on each side, as they walked down the aisle of the church towards their Daddy’s coffin. The same church would mark the end of their married life as it had marked its beginning.

I had been a bridesmaid at that wedding, for Michael was my brother.

Last February, four months after Michael Hutchence’s death, Paula said the only thing that gave her the will to live was their child. Without Tiger Lily, she would have killed herself. Several months later, she tried to do just that.

Last year, I was talking to the other woman who lost her Michael and she, too, said her life was empty without him. There was nothing for Hellene but her children. No one could, or would, ever replace him.

“Everyone tells you it gets easier with time,” she said a year after his death, “but I can tell you it just gets worse. Every five minutes is worse than the last. It will never get better for me. All I have is our children. Without them, I would kill myself.” And she meant it.

She returned to work, because she had to. The children miss their father desperately, but are safe in the knowledge that their mother is there for them, all the time. They make a tragic sight at family gatherings, the only ones without a dad.

But one thing is clear to all who love and watch over them. When Hellene gathers them in her arms after they have won a poetry prize or come last in a running race and tells them Dad would be proud, there could be no simpler truth.

We all hope that she will find another partner, that the children will know the love of a stepfather, but in our hearts we doubt it. And somehow the love of this woman seems to suffice.

Last week, I thought of both women again. My mother phoned to say Hellene had finally marked her husband’s grave with its tombstone. It is two-and-a-half years since Michael died. It has taken so long to complete this last act because, as she says, if finally and unbearably marks the end. It reads: “From heartbroken Hellene and your two children. Your love is scattered over our lives.”

Just 10 months after her Michael’s death, Paula was pictured with her new lover Kingsley O’Keke, a 28-year-old heroin addict and convicted thief she met in a rehabilitation clinic. Tiger Lily is being “cared for” by friends in Australia while Paula recovers from her most recent bout of alcohol and drug abuse.

Another cry for help, friends said sympathetically. But who is there to answer Tiger Lily’s cries?

Observers at the clinic, which they both left before completing rehabilitation, said they were caught having sex “like rabbits” in the grounds, and in their rooms.

At a time when her daughter desperately needs her mother’s love (and let’s not forget Paula’s other three children now being cared for by their father Bob Geldof), Paula is wandering the streets parading her surgically-enhanced breasts, snogging her boyfriend and looking for a place for them to set up home.

In the course of a week, all sympathy for Paula Yates has disappeared. She makes a mockery of love and of loss. Her actions devalue the notion of true love. Perhaps her love for Michael was self-delusion after all. Or is the love for her new man a self-indulgence? Only one thing can be certain about Paula’s life. It is all about self.

It has been indescribably hard for Hellene (and for the thousands of other women who lose the man they love), but the only rabbits in her children’s lives are the ones in story books and on the bedroom walls. Her children are paramount. I wish we could say the same of Paula.

The only real rehabilitation, Paula, is the hard option of facing the facts of life and death and remembering that, whatever your own pain and your own need for happiness, there is still a little girl who is depending on you, her mother.

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