Men At Work’s Greg Ham Dies

Police are investigating the death of Men At Work member Greg Ham, whose body was discovered in his home in North Carlton, Melbourne April 19. He was 58.

Ham had lived alone in the modest home in the past year. Police, called to his home after he failed to attend a pharmacy appointment, did not comment on media speculation his death was suspicious.

Ham joined Men At Work in 1979, providing the reggae-pop tunes of singer Colin Hay and guitarist Ron Strykert with flute, sax and synthesizer. The band achieved international success in the 1980s with a series of radio-friendly reggae-tinged hits as “Who Can It Be Now,” the iconic “Down Under” and “Overkill.” Their colorful and theatrical videos — both Hay and Ham were also actors — saw them embraced by the just-launched MTV.

Their debut album Business As Usual on Columbia stayed for 15 weeks atop the U.S. charts and won the best new artist Grammy in 1983. Men At Work scored the hat trick of having a simultaneous No. 1 with “Down Under” and the album in the U.S. and the U.K. Follow up album Cargo reached No. 3 Stateside.

After the band split in 1986, Ham taught music at a school and played sax in The Nudist Funk Orchestra. He and Hay occasionally reunited for tours through South America and Australia where Men At Work retained a fan base.

In 2010, Sydney-based publisher Larrikin Music successfully sued, alleging similarity of Ham’s flute riff on “Down Under” to the well known 1930s Australian girls guide singalong “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree.”

Despite Ham’s insistence it was unintentional, an Australian court gave Larrikin 5 percent of post-2002 and future royalties from the song, which remains played at Australian sporting triumphs worldwide and appears on compilations.

The decision left Ham shattered. He told the Melbourne Age newspaper that he would have to sell his home to pay legal costs.

“It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that. I’m terribly disappointed that that’s the way I’m going to be remembered – for copying something.”

Ham is survived by two children.