Michael Hutchence

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Michael Hutchence
Hutchence in San Francisco, August 1986
Michael Kelland John Hutchence

(1960-01-22)22 January 1960
Died22 November 1997(1997-11-22) (aged 37)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Cause of deathAsphyxiation due to suicide by hanging
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1977–1997
Partner(s)Paula Yates (1995–1997; his death)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Associated acts

Michael Kelland John Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) was an Australian musician, singer-songwriter and actor who co-founded the rock band INXS, which sold over 55 million records worldwide and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001. Hutchence was the lead singer and lyricist of INXS from 1977 until his death. 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."[1] Hutchence won the 'Best International Artist' at the 1991 BRIT Awards, with INXS winning the related group award.

Hutchence was a member of the short-lived pop rock group Max Q. He also recorded some solo material and acted in feature films, including Dogs in Space (1986), Frankenstein Unbound (1990), and Limp (1997).

Hutchence had a string of love affairs with prominent actresses, models and singers, and his private life was often reported in the Australian and international press. In July 1996, Hutchence and English television presenter Paula Yates had a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

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.

Early life[edit]

Michael Kelland John Hutchence was born on 22 January 1960, the son of Sydney businessman Kelland ("Kell") Hutchence, and make-up artist Patricia (née Kennedy). Hutchence was of Irish ancestry from his mother's side,[2] as Patricia's father was from County Cork in Ireland. Following Kell's business interests, the Hutchence family moved to Brisbane (where younger brother Rhett was born) and later to Hong Kong. During the early years in Hong Kong, both boys attended Beacon Hill School in Kowloon Tong. While in Hong Kong, Michael showed promise as a swimmer before breaking his arm badly. He then began to show interest in poetry and performed his first song in a local toy store commercial. Michael attended King George V School during his early teens.[3]

The family returned to Sydney in 1972, buying a house in Belrose near the Northern Beaches. Hutchence attended Davidson High School, where he met and befriended Andrew Farriss. Around this time, Hutchence and Farriss spent a lot of time jamming in the garage with Andrew's brothers. Farriss then convinced Hutchence to join his band, Doctor Dolphin, alongside classmates Kent Kerny and Neil Sanders. Bass guitarist Garry Beers and drummer Geoff Kennelly from nearby Forest High School filled out the line-up.[4] Hutchence's parents separated when he was 15; for a short time in 1976, he lived with his mother and half-sister Tina in California.[3][5] Hutchence later returned to Sydney with his mother.[3]

In 1977, a new band, The Farriss Brothers, was formed with Tim Farriss on lead guitar, his younger brother Andrew as keyboardist, and youngest brother Jon on drums. Andrew brought Hutchence on board as a vocalist and Beers on bass guitar, and Tim brought in his former bandmate Kirk Pengilly to play guitar and saxophone.[1][6] The band made their debut on 16 August 1977 at Whale Beach, 40 km (25 mi) north of Sydney.[7]

In 1978, the parents of the Farriss boys moved to Perth, Western Australia, taking Jon (who was still in high school) with them. After Hutchence and Andrew finished their secondary schooling, the rest of the band followed.


Early career[edit]

Hutchence, the Farriss brothers, Kerny, Sanders, Beers and Kennelly briefly performed as The Vegetables, singing "We Are the Vegetables".[7] Ten months later, they returned to Sydney and recorded a set of demos.[4] The Farriss Brothers regularly supported hard rockers Midnight Oil on the pub rock circuit, and were renamed as INXS in 1979.[7] Their first performance under the new name was on 1 September at the Oceanview Hotel in Toukley.[4] In May 1980, the group released their first single, "Simple Simon"/"We Are the Vegetables" which was followed by the debut album INXS in October.[1] Their first Top 40 Australian hit on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart, "Just Keep Walking", was released in September 1980.[8] During the 1980s, Hutchence resided at the apartment block at the end of Kirketon Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Hutchence became the main spokesperson for the band.[1] He co-wrote almost all of INXS's songs with Andrew Farriss,[5] who has attributed his own success as a songwriter to Hutchence's "genius".

According to Hutchence, most of the songs on the band's second album, Underneath the Colours, were written within a fairly short space of time: "Most bands shudder at the prospect of having 20 years to write their first album and four days to write their second. For us, though, it was good. It left less room for us to go off on all sorts of tangents".[4] Soon after recording sessions for Underneath the Colours – produced by Richard Clapton – had finished, band members started work on outside projects. Hutchence recorded "Speed Kills", written by Don Walker of hard rockers Cold Chisel, for the Freedom (1982) film soundtrack, directed by Scott Hicks. It was Hutchence's first solo single and was released by WEA in early 1982.[4]

Stardom and acting career[edit]

In March 1985, after Hutchence and INXS recorded their album The Swing (1984), WEA released the Australian version of Dekadance, as a limited edition cassette only EP of six tracks including remixes from the album. The cassette also included a cover version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's hit "Jackson", which Hutchence sang as a duet with Jenny Morris, a backing singer for The Swing sessions.[1] The EP reached No 2 on the Kent Music Report Albums Chart.[8] Hutchence provided vocals for new wave band Beargarden's 1985 single release.[9]

On 19 May, INXS won seven awards at the 1984 Countdown Music and Video Awards ceremony, including 'Best Songwriter' for Hutchence and Andrew, and 'Most Popular Male' for Hutchence.[1][10] They performed "Burn for You", dressed in Akubras (a brand of hats) and Drizabones (a brand of outdoor coats/oilskin jackets) followed by Hutchence and Morris singing "Jackson" to close.[10]

In 1986, Hutchence played Sam, the lead male role, in the Australian film Dogs in Space, directed by long-time INXS music video collaborator Richard Lowenstein. Sam's girlfriend, Anna, was portrayed by Saskia Post as a "fragile peroxide blonde in op-shop clothes".[11][12] Hutchence provided four songs on the film's soundtrack.

Late in 1986, before commencing work on a new INXS album and while supposedly taking an eight-month break, the band's management decided to stage the Australian Made tour as a series of major outdoor concerts across the country. The roster featured INXS, Jimmy Barnes (Cold Chisel), Models, Divinyls, Mental as Anything, The Triffids and I'm Talking.[7] To promote the tour, Hutchence and Barnes shared vocals on The Easybeats cover "Good Times" and "Laying Down the Law", which Barnes cowrote with Beers, Andrew Farriss, Jon Farriss, Hutchence and Pengilly.[13] "Good Times" was used as the theme for the concert series of 1986–1987.[7] It peaked at No. 2 on the Australian charts,[8] and months later was featured in the Joel Schumacher film The Lost Boys and its soundtrack,[14] allowing it to peak at No. 47 in the U.S. on 1 August 1987.[15] Divinyls' lead singer Chrissie Amphlett enjoyed the tour and reconnected with Hutchence, stating that "[he] was a sweet man, who said in one interview that he wanted me to have his baby."[7]

In 1987, Hutchence provided vocals for Richard Clapton's album Glory Road, which was produced by Jon Farriss.[9]

INXS released Kick in October 1987, and the album provided the band with worldwide popularity. Kick peaked at No. 1 in Australia,[8] No. 3 on the US Billboard 200,[16] No. 9 in UK,[17] and No. 15 in Austria.[18] According to 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them, the single Need You Tonight is not lyrically complex; it is Hutchence's performance where "he sings in kittenish whisper, gently drawing back with the incredible lust of a tiger hunting in the night" that makes the song "as sexy and funky as any white rock group has ever been".[19] In September 1988, the band swept the MTV Video Music Awards with the video for "Need You Tonight/Mediate" winning in five categories.[20]

In 1989, Hutchence collaborated further with Olsen for the Max Q project, and was joined by members of Olsen's previous groups including Whirlywirld, No and Orchestra of Skin and Bone. They released a self-titled album and three singles, "Way of the World", "Sometimes" and "Monday Night by Satellite". Max Q disbanded in 1990.[21] Max Q showed Hutchence exploring the darker side of his music and, with Olsen, he created "one of the most innovative dance music albums of the decade". Hutchence wrote most of the music and provided "an extraordinary performance ... it was one of the most significant statements Hutchence was to make".[19] In 1990, Hutchence portrayed nineteenth-century Romantic poet Percy Shelley in Roger Corman's film version of Frankenstein Unbound, which was based on a science fiction time travel story of the same name written by Brian Aldiss.[22]

In 1990, INXS released X, which spawned more international hits such as "Suicide Blonde" and "Disappear" (both Top 10 in the US).[15] "Suicide Blonde" peaked at No. 2 in Australia and No. 11 in the UK.[17] Hutchence, with Andrew Farriss, wrote the song after Hutchence's then-girlfriend, Kylie Minogue, used the phrase "suicide blonde" to describe her look during her 1989 film, The Delinquents; the film depicted Minogue in a platinum blonde wig.[23] Hutchence won the 'Best International Artist' at the 1991 BRIT Awards with INXS winning the related group award.[1] Hutchence provided vocals for pub rockers Noiseworks' album, Love Versus Money (1991).[9]

January 1994, on stage during the Dirty Honeymoon world tour

Welcome to Wherever You Are was released by INXS in August 1992. It received good critical reviews and went to No. 1 in the UK.[17]

Later career[edit]

Hutchence and INXS faced reduced commercial success with Full Moon, Dirty Hearts, especially in the U.S. The band took time off to rest and be with their families, while Hutchence remained in the public eye through his romances.[1][24] He commenced work on a self-titled solo album in the mid-1990s.[1]

After a period of inactivity and releases that received lukewarm reviews, INXS recorded the band's 10th official album, Elegantly Wasted, in 1996.


In 2013, News.com.au ranked Hutchence fourth in a list of the 15 greatest Australian singers of all time.[25] Billboard described Hutchence as "charismatic," with a "seductive purr and [a] lithe, magnetic stage presence."[26] Paul Donoughue of ABC.net.au wrote that Hutchence had "a phenomenal voice — moody, sexual, and dynamic, able to shift effortlessly from fragile to cocksure."[27] Reviewing an INXS concert, Dave Simpson of The Guardian wrote, "Watching Hutchence, hair flailing, crotch thrusting, a mischievous smile forever creeping across his leathery face, I realised that here was a man born to be onstage, living and loving every minute, an explosion of sexual energy".[28] Hutchence biographer Toby Creswell asserted that "Hutchence was, without question, one of the truly great frontmen — he expressed the music in a dynamic way that few others could."[29]

Personal life[edit]

According to People, Hutchence's "public brawls and onetime open drug use led London tabloids to dub him the 'wild man of rock.'"[30]

Hutchence was romantically linked to Kylie Minogue,[31] Belinda Carlisle,[32] Helena Christensen,[33] and Kym Wilson.[34]

In August 1992, Helena Christensen and Hutchence were walking after drinking heavily when he refused to move for a taxi.[35] The taxi driver then assaulted him, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the roadway. Hutchence suffered a fractured skull in the altercation.[36] Hutchence did not immediately seek medical assistance for the injury, instead waiting several days before seeing a doctor. As a result, Hutchence's fractured skull left him with an almost complete loss of the sense of smell and significant loss of taste.[37] This injury led to periods of depression and increased levels of aggression; he had not fully recovered after two weeks in a Copenhagen hospital. According to INXS bandmate Beers, Hutchence pulled a knife and threatened to kill him during the 1993 recording of Full Moon, Dirty Hearts on the isle of Capri. Beers said: "Over those six weeks, Michael threatened or physically confronted nearly every member of the band."[38]

In the mid-1990s, Hutchence became romantically involved with Paula Yates.[39] He had met Yates in 1985, during an interview for her program, The Tube. Yates interviewed Hutchence again in 1994 for her Big Breakfast show, and their affair was soon uncovered by the British press.[24] At the time, Yates was married to The Boomtown Rats' lead singer and Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof. Media scrutiny was intense, and Hutchence assaulted a photographer who had followed the couple. Yates' separation from Geldof in February 1995 sparked a public and at times bitter custody battle over their daughters. Yates and Geldof divorced in May 1996.[40]

On 22 July 1996, Yates gave birth to Hutchence's daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence.[41] Yates claimed that the baby had been delivered in their bathroom. Like her half-sisters, the baby was christened with an unusual name: Half-sister Pixie chose "Heavenly," Hutchence picked "Hiraani," and Yates provided "Tiger Lily". The baby was known as "Tiger," and Hutchence described her as "just what we ordered".

In September 1996, Yates and Hutchence made headlines again when they were arrested for suspicion of drug possession after the family nanny reportedly found a small amount of opium in a shoebox underneath their bed. The case was later dropped due to lack of evidence.[42]


Hutchence memorial at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, North Ryde, New South Wales.

Hutchence and INXS went on a world tour to support the April 1997 release of Elegantly Wasted.[1] The final 20th anniversary tour was to occur in Australia in November and December. During the tour, Yates planned to visit Hutchence with their daughter and Yates's three children, but Geldof had taken legal action to prevent the visit.[43]

On the morning of 22 November 1997, Hutchence, aged 37, was found dead in Room 524 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Sydney.[1][44] Actress Kym Wilson was the last person to see Hutchence alive, after partying with him in his hotel room prior to his death. [45] Geldof and Yates each gave police statements on the phone calls they exchanged with Hutchence on the morning of his death; however, they did not volunteer their phone records. Yates's statement on 26 November indicated that she had informed Hutchence of the Geldof girls custody hearing being adjourned until 17 December, which meant that Yates would not be able to bring Tiger and the Geldof girls to Australia for a visit as previously intended. According to Yates, Hutchence "was frightened and couldn't stand a minute more without his baby... [he] was terribly upset and he said, 'I don't know how I'll live without seeing Tiger'". Yates indicated that Hutchence said he was going to phone Geldof "to let the girls come to Australia".[44][46] Geldof's police statements and evidence to the coroner indicated that Geldof did receive a call from Hutchence, who was "hectoring and abusive and threatening" during their phone conversation. The occupant in the room next to Hutchence's heard a loud male voice and swearing at about 5 AM; the coroner was satisfied that this was Hutchence arguing with Geldof.[44][46]

At 9:54 AM on 22 November, Hutchence spoke with a former girlfriend, Michèle Bennett; according to Bennett, Hutchence was crying, sounded upset, and told her he needed to see her. Bennett arrived at his hotel room door at about 10:40 AM, but there was no response. Hutchence's body was discovered by a hotel maid at 11:50 AM. Police reported that Hutchence was found "in a kneeling position facing the door. He had used his snakeskin belt to tie a knot on the automatic door closure at the top of the door, and had strained his head forward into the loop so hard that the buckle had broken."[44]

On 6 February 1998, after an autopsy and coronial inquest, New South Wales State Coroner, Derrick Hand, presented his report. The report ruled that Hutchence's death was suicide while depressed and under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.[44] "An analysis report of Hutchence's blood [indicated] the presence of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and prescription drugs."[47] In producing his coroner's report, Hand had specifically considered the suggestions of accidental death (coupled with the fact that Hutchence left no suicide note), but had discounted them based on substantial evidence presented to the contrary.[44][46][48] In a 1999 interview on 60 Minutes (and in a documentary film on Channel 4), Yates claimed that Hutchence's death may have resulted from autoerotic asphyxiation; this claim contradicted her previous statements to police investigators and the coroner.[49]

On 27 November 1997, Hutchence's funeral was held at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. His casket was carried out of the cathedral by members of INXS and by his younger brother, Rhett; "Never Tear Us Apart" was played in the background. Nick Cave, a friend of Hutchence, performed his 1997 song "Into My Arms" during the funeral and requested that television cameras be switched off. Rhett claimed in his 2004 book, Total XS, that on the previous day at the funeral parlour, Yates had put a gram of heroin into Hutchence's pocket.[50] He was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney.[51]

Later developments[edit]

Following Hutchence's death, INXS continued recording and performing until 2012. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), INXS has sold 15 million units in the United States alone, making them the third-highest selling Australian music act in the United States behind AC/DC and The Bee Gees.[52] INXS has sold over 55 million records worldwide.[53] INXS was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001.[54]

Hutchence's solo album, Michael Hutchence, was released in October 1999.[1] He had started on the album in 1995, recording songs in between INXS sessions and had last worked on it three days prior to his death. The last song he recorded was "Possibilities".[1] The album was co-written and co-produced by Hutchence and various collaborators – Andy Gill (Gang of Four), Bernard Fowler (The Rolling Stones backing singer), Tim Simenon (Bomb the Bass), and Danny Saber (Black Grape). It includes a duet with U2's Bono, "Slide Away", with Bono's vocals recorded after Hutchence's death.

The 1999 movie Limp includes a cameo by Hutchence, playing a record company A&R man; he had filmed his scene in 1996 on a day off from working on INXS's Elegantly Wasted.

On 18 June 2000, Patricia Glassop and Tina Schorr released their book, Just a Man: The Real Michael Hutchence, which has been described as "an odd biography ... [that] combines the basic facts of Hutchence's early life ... with an almost too-intimate view of the authors' feelings".[55]

Paula Yates died on 17 September 2000 of an accidental heroin overdose; she was discovered by Hutchence's then-four-year-old daughter Tiger.[24] Tiger was adopted by Bob Geldof, the father of her half-sisters.

On 12 December 2002, Hutchence's father, Kelland, died of cancer in Sydney. Kelland had helped create and maintain a memorial website for his son from 1999.[56]

On 20 August 2005, Melbourne's The Age reported on the disposition of Hutchence's estate and assets, estimated at between $10 to $20 million but containing virtually nothing. The remainder of his estate had been sold off and swallowed in legal fees.[57]

In July 2009, Hutchence's mother, Patricia Glassop, protested that Geldof had prevented access to her granddaughter for three years.[58] Glassop died on 21 September 2010.[59]



  • "Speed Kills" (1981)
  • "Rooms for the Memory" (1986)
  • "A Straight Line" (1999)

With Max Q[edit]

  • Max Q (1989), (see Max Q)

With INXS[edit]

Collaborations and soundtracks[edit]

Tributes and dedications[edit]

  • Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, a friend of Hutchence and Yates, and Geldof's best man, wrote "Michael". It was recorded in 1996 and released on Medazzaland a month before Hutchence's death.
  • Nick Cave sang "Into My Arms" at the funeral on 27 November 1997, which was broadcast live on Australian TV. Out of respect, Cave requested the song not be televised.[60]
  • Terri Nunn of Berlin and Corgan collaborated on "Sacred and Profane" for Berlin's 2000 album Live: Sacred & Profane. Nunn said, "He was a very big inspiration for both Billy and me. The song is about my first experience seeing him because that changed my life. He influenced me probably more than anyone else as a performer. I became 12 years old in five minutes wanting to have sex with him. That's all I wanted! Oh my God. Everybody did! You just wanted him. He was the epitome of rock star."[61][62]
    • Bono, a close friend of Hutchence, wrote "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" on the 2000 U2 album All That You Can't Leave Behind. The song is written in the form of an argument about suicide in which he tries to convince Hutchence of its foolishness. Bono characterised it as a good old row between friends, which he felt guilty for never having with Hutchence in real life.[63] In a 2005 interview, Bono regretted that he had not spent more time with Hutchence. Bono's wife, Alison Hewson, had seen Hutchence prior to his death and noted "he looked a bit shaky to [her]."[63]
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed "Don't Change" during their High Hopes Tour on the show of 19 February 2014 in Sydney, Australia.[64]


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