Eric Bogle, AM, is a friend of my brother, Peter Stone. It makes sense that he and my brother would be friends. Both men are ageing with great style. Through their friendship, I had the opportunity to talk with Eric, one of my favourite folk singers.
His voice has retained so much of its lovely Scottish burr that it’s hard to believe this delightful man migrated from Scotland to Australia almost fifty years ago.
I’m fascinated about what keeps people like Eric Bogle working well into their seventies, even though he says he is starting to show signs of slowing down from the ninety-three concerts he performed over three months in the UK and Europe a few years ago.
‘Music drives me on,’ he said. ‘Live music feeds off an audience. And most of the good things in my life have come through music.’
Because of his service to the arts as a singer and songwriter, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987.
Eric Bogle is coming to Western Australian at the end of February. His itinerary over a week or so seems punishing. After that, he’s off to the Tullamore Irish Festival in New South Wales.
In April, he and his wife, Mel (short for Carnel) are travelling to Gallipoli, where they will not be involved in any major events. Instead, Eric has been invited to perform for about a hundred other Australians in an old Turkish fort, well away from the crowds.
“I’m worried about this year being commercialised and media-ised,’ he said. ‘Other people have their own agendas. I’m excited about our visit – and also apprehensive. It’ll be an emotional occasion. It may be too much. It may draw a line for me under ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.’
He believes that in the past there has been too much emphasis on the song itself, and that poets who went to war tell the same story with great honesty and feeling.
The themes of Eric Bogle’s songs range from comedy and satire through protest to more serious themes. Some reflect his deep understanding of, and distaste for the futility of war. His song, ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ was named one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. His songs are often played to commemorate the fallen of World War I, although they have not always been without controversy.
Eric’s tour in Western Australia includes Albany, Fremantle, the Nannup Music Festival and performances in Narrogin, Donnybrook and Mandurah. You can find dates and times here.
Whatever he does when he returns from Turkey, you can be sure Eric Bogle will maintain his energy and enthusiasm for life. He will keep on writing great songs. And he will continue his quest, to better than he already is at whatever he does.
I’m looking forward to his concert on 27 February at the not-for-profit Fly-By-Night Musicians Club in Fremantle, and to catching up with him for a chat afterwards.