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Paul Kelly
, 2013

by Warwick Thornton

digital HD video 8 minutes 54 seconds

Paul Kelly AO (b. 1955), singer, songwriter and producer, grew up in Adelaide and made his performing debut in Hobart in 1974. In Melbourne, he and his pub band The Dots made two albums before breaking up in 1982. He recorded Post in Sydney in 1985, but his major break came the following year, by which time his band was known as The Coloured Girls. Their double album Gossip was one of the biggest Australian records of 1986. The band made Under the Sun (1987) before touring the US as Paul Kelly and the Messengers. They disbanded in 1991, and from that point Kelly branched into producing and acting as well as writing and performing. Kelly sings with a marked Australian accent and many of his songs refer to specific Australian people and places; his song ‘Bradman’ is well-known, and the album Stolen Apples (2007) includes a song about Aboriginal artists Queenie McKenzie and Rover Thomas. Though he has written most of his long and poetic songlist alone, over the course of his nineteen albums he has also collaborated brilliantly, particularly with indigenous performers such as Kev Carmody, Christine Anu and Yothu Yindi. His self-described ‘mongrel memoir’, How to Make Gravy, was released in 2010 and Ian Darling’s film Paul Kelly – Stories of Me appeared in 2012.

Conceiving this commission, Thornton thought about the burden of responsibility on Kelly, as a stalwart of the Australian music industry, a teller of Australian truths, and a mentor to other artists.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Ian Darling 2013
Accession number: 2013.49