Australia’s most prominent indigenous musician Dr. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who was renowned throughout the world and toured the U.S. in 2015, died on Tuesday at the age of 46. He reportedly had been battling several illnesses including liver and kidney diseases.
Gurrumul’s reputation was described by his record label Skinnyfish describes the singer as “one of the most important figures in Australian music history.”
His music career began as a former member of the Aboriginal rock group Yothu Yindi, playing keyboards and percussion. While in the group, Yothu Yindi scored a hit in Australia in 1991 with the song “Treaty”, a song that dealt with the political issues facing Aborigines and their relationship with white Australia.
Gurrumul gained more acclaim as a solo artist, releasing a self-titled solo debut album in 2008. The wistful, folk-based release won an ARIA music award and became triple platinum in Australia while charting in many other countries. His most recent release, The Gospel Album (2015) was released following his U.S. tour and featured Christian, gospel and soul music influences.
Blind from birth, Gurrumul learned to play guitar at age 6 and sang in both English and his native Yolngu throughout his career, with topics ranging from the autobiographical to his spiritual connections with his country, tribe, and ancestors. Throughout his career, he performed for many esteemed audiences including Queen Elizabeth II and former U.S. president Barrack Obama.
Other Australian musicians were quick to share their tributes online, including former collaborator and Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett.
My dear friend Dr Yunupingu – a truly great musician – is gone. Very sad news. Too young, so much left to give. Heart goes out to family.
— Peter Garrett (@pgarrett) July 25, 2017