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Classic protest song I Was Only 19 added to NFSA’s Sounds of Australia

Thursday 19 November, 2015

Source: National Film and Sound Archive

redgumI Was Only 19, the classic track about the plight of returned Vietnam soldiers written by John Schumann, is one of 10 recordings added to Sounds of Australia – the ultimate selection of culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant Australian sounds, established by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).

Other entries include the only known voice recording of an Australian soldier on his way to the First World War, iconic songs by Deborah Conway, Hilltop Hoods and Hoodoo Gurus, a Fairlight synthesiser sample used by Michael Jackson in Beat It, the song from the long– running ABC children’s show The Argonauts, and a selection of Indigenous music and songs recorded by John Hutchinson in Western Australia in 1959.

Sounds of Australia was established by the NFSA in 2007, to recognise the contribution of recorded sound to our nation’s evolving identity – from AC/DC to Waltzing Matilda, from obscure experimental artists to international stars, from extinct Indigenous languages to inspiring speeches, and much more.

John Schumann, lead singer and songwriter with the Australian folk-rock band Redgum, said: ‘Much has been said about 19. That it helped bring our Vietnam veterans home. That it precipitated a Royal Commission. That it changed forever the way we Australians think about the men and women we send to fight our wars. These things are for others to say, not me. For me, I Was Only 19 has been an amazing gift, and I’m delighted that it has been identified as one of the Sounds of Australia. It’s a great honour.’

Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier said: ‘We are delighted that Alive and Brilliant has been included in the 2015 Sounds of Australia registry. We first played it during a late summer storm in Sydney in 1992, made memorable for the amount of people dancing around crazily in plastic rain ponchos. In 1993 it was released on the album Bitch Epic and subsequently became the first 5/4 song to hit the pop charts since Dave Brubeck’s Take Five in 1961.’

Read more here.

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