Renée Geyer (11 September 1953 – 17 January 2023)
“A white Hungarian Jew from Australia sounding like a 65-year-old black man from Alabama.” This how Geyer described herself, one of the true originals, and the first (and best) Australian woman to master Soul, Jazz, R & B songs (think “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” “Since I Fell for You,” “Heading in the Right Direction,” “Stares and Whispers,” “Stormy Monday,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Difficult Woman,” and the pop classic “Say I Love You.”) She was interpreting, and enhancing, the great world songbook long before Rod Stewart or Jimmy Barnes.
Whilst never a chart topper (it has been reported that the US record industry tempered its initial enthusiasm for her vocal style and great torch songs when it was discovered that she was not black – she refused to hide her “big pink huge face”), she was a consistent presence and a touch of class during the unpolished pop world of the mid/late 1970s and early 1980s.
Fun trivia fact (that you probably won’t find among the many tributes): when Australia decided (71% of it) that the Whitlam government had earned a long rest, it was Geyer who sang the Liberal Party campaign song, “Turn on the Lights.” She did it very well (of course) although her heart may not have been in it.
While in hospital for hip surgery, it was discovered that Renée also had inoperable lung cancer. ‘Difficult’ as she was, we’re sure she’ll head in the right celestial direction. Vale.