Header image: Mark Seymour, Kylie Minogue and Ed Sheeran dance during the final performance of Michael Gudinski’s State Memorial Service.

The State Memorial service for “titan, mensch, captain of industry, loving and caring husband, amazing father, loyal family man, [and] king of creating the vibe,” Michael Gudinski AM (in the beautiful words of his son, Matt Gudinski) was held this evening at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.

Beginning with a yidaki-led Welcome to Country and the Australian National Anthem sung by Gudinski’s goddaughter (and Jimmy Barnes’ daughter) Mahalia Barnes, the three-and-a-half-hour event saw broadcaster Lee Simon trace the decades of Gudinski’s life, beginning with the story of the Music Man’s first ever business endeavour in 1959: charging Caulfield Racecourse punters a two-shilling parking fee for the use of the Gudinski family’s driveway and front yard. At that time, young Michael was just seven years old.

Interspersed with Simon charting the chronology of Gudinski’s charity, artist development, touring, live, and other business venture projects, as well as his numerous awards and accolades and particularly his outstanding efforts to support the Australian music industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were privy to some brilliant footage and still photos of yore – as well as words from Gudinski himself from various interviews over the last few decades.

The event was liberally sprinkled with a gobsmacking array of spoken tributes, from artists including Sting, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Mark Seymour, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, The Temper Trap’s Dougy Mandagi, Bliss n Eso, Kate Ceberano, Amy Shark, Gordi, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins, Carrie Bickmore (in person), Jack River, Deborah Conway, Paul Kelly (in person), Archie Roach, Troy Cassar-Daley, Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Peter Garrett, Vance Joy, Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Molly Meldrum, Daryl Braithwaite, Bryan Adams, Sam Smith, Ian Moss, DMA’s’ Tommy O’Dell, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age (“He was like a credit card – he was accepted everywhere”), Rod Stewart (“We had so much fun Down Under it’s a wonder we didn’t end up in jail”), The Rubens’ Sam Margin, Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Shawn Mendes, Dannii Minogue, and Dave Grohl (“I’m a firm believer in magic, and magic people… he didn’t just walk into the room, he charged into the room, and the room became his”).

Performances on the Rod Laver stage included Ed Sheeran (Castle on the Hill, The A Team, and a new song titled Visiting Hours which he specifically wrote to process the news of Michael’s death while he was quarantining in Australia for this event, the chorus of which laments: “I wish heaven had visiting hours…”), Kylie Minogue with Ed Sheeran (All the Lovers, The Loco-Motion), Mark Seymour with Vika and Linda Bull (Throw Your Arms Around Me), Jimmy Barnes (Flesh & Blood, When the War Is Over), Mia Wray (Never Gonna Be the Same), Paul Kelly with Michael Barclay (Leaps and Bounds, in which Kelly changed its “I remember” refrain to “I remember you, Michael – you always liked to take a chance”), and Bruce Springsteen (with a pre-recorded but especially-created recording montage of I’ll See You in My Dreams).

Matt Gudinski delivered a phenomenal speech about his father, detailing their special bond and achievements together; we saw a montage of family photos soundtracked by Always There by Michael’s daughter Kate Alexandra, who afterwards gave an emotional account of her experiences with her adored dad; and Rabbi Menachem Wolf spoke of Michael’s profound insight: “What was it that Michael could see in people, a potential greatness, that they couldn’t even imagine of themselves? He had an incredible intuition of what would make people happy, what would bring them joy. I believe that Michael’s slight restlessness, his constant movement, his big ideas, were his soul expressing itself, every moment of the day.” Rabbi Wolf then led all those present (and those of us watching at home) in a song from the Book of Psalms, sung in Hebrew: Hallelujah.

Simon drew the evening to a close, asking all present to stand and applaud the life and memory of Michael Gudinski, after which Jimmy Barnes “and friends” (read: every artist who’d appeared on stage throughout the night, including Ed Sheeran looking adorably out of his depth) slammed out a perfectly honky-tonk-rock rendition of The Easybeats’ 1968 classic Good Times.

In the words of Matt Gudinski: “To put it simply, there was only one Michael Gudinski, and there’ll never be anyone like him ever again.” Our condolences go to the Gudinski family, the Mushroom family, and everyone whose lives Michael touched – may his memory be forever cherished.

Michael Gudinski