John Williamson has opened up on the pressure he felt singing Aussie classic ‘True Blue’ for Steve Irwin’s family and friends at his emotional funeral in 2006 – and revealed he only stayed strong himself because he “had to sing for them”.
The 72-year-old singer’s popular song has become one of Australia’s most iconic hits over the years, and was one of the late Crocodile Hunter’s favourites. His family chose it for his public memorial service and John’s rendition left the entire crowd in tears.
Now, speaking on a new episode of ABC’s Anh’s Brush With Fame – set to air in two weeks time – John has revealed he stayed strong throughout by remembering his emotions didn’t come close to those of the Irwin family.
“That was a hard one because I was facing his family, his best mates….” He told painter Anh. “The whole world was watching. It’s live to air so that’s pretty scary, I think there was 300 million they reckon.
“But in the long run it’s not my luxury to get emotional, I had to sing for them so that’s how I got through it.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Steve’s father Bob said he “fell apart” hearing John’s rendition during the service.
“I was coping fairly well until John sang that song [True Blue] and then I fell apart,” he said. “If our roles would have been reversed, Steve would have fallen apart too because he really loved that song.”
‘True Blue’ is regularly performed on special occasions across the country and many families associate it with memories such as weddings or funeral services. John also performed it at cricketer Don Bradman’s funeral in 2001, but he has a funny memory from that special day.
Having arrived at the church, he recalled having to set up his microphone on his shirt in a nearby corridor. To help himself out, he undid his trousers slightly to feed the wire up from the bottom of his shirt.
However, he forgot to do his fly up again and was stopped in the nick of time by a security guard who warned him of his embarrassing blunder just in time. He said he ended up feeling so “lucky” with the near miss, that it took the pressure off the main performance.
Meanwhile, it was an emotional appearance for John on the TV show as he also opened up about the tragic moment he lost his brother Robin to cancer at the age of 48.
Revealing he wrote his song ‘Salisbury Street’ in memory of him, he said he now keeps his memory alive by performing it at every one of his shows and always toasts him with a glass of water each time.
John Williamson appears on the Anh’s Brush with Fame on Wednesday, August 22, at 8pm on ABC.