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Paul Kelly Poetry

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Emma Thompson

on 26 April 2016

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Transcript of Paul Kelly Poetry

Quick Facts

Name: Paul Maurice Kelly
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 13 January, 1955
Australian singer and songwriter
One of eight children
Chart stoppers include 'Dumb Things' and 'To Her Door'
Quote: 'Songwriting is mysterious to me. I don’t feel like I have got it nailed yet.'
Paul Kelly - biography
This Land is Mine
To Her Door
Australia in the 80s and 90s
1980s in context

• The Australian economy was booming in the 1980s, but the 1987 stock market crash forced the economy into recession
• Amid the glamour and greed of the 1980s, many environmental causes came to the forefront of public debate.
• Immigration rates were high in the 1980s. Racial tolerance improved as Australians embraced multiculturalism.
• Uluru was handed back to its Aboriginal owners in 1986, marking a step forward in the Indigenous land rights struggle.
• The Bicentenary of 1988 celebrated Australia's white heritage and culture. Many Indigenous people, though, considered it a time for mourning.

1990s in context

As the new century approached, Australians living in the 1990s began to ask questions about the kind of nation they wanted to create. Change swept across all areas of Australian social and cultural life - multiculturalism was challenged, Indigenous land rights forged ahead and the republican debate questioned whether our ties to Britain had become outdated. Decades of industrialisation were beginning to be felt, but as the environment showed signs of distress, environmental groups gained strength.

After the excess of the 1980s, the Australian economy fell into recession. Unemployment and inflation rates increased and for several years, many Australians struggled to make ends meet. The economy recovered, however. John Howard's coalition government, which came to power in 1996, slashed government spending and implemented a wide range of reforms.

By the close of the decade, the advent of the internet meant that Australians had truly become global citizens. Many daily activities could be carried out via the home computer and Australians could instantaneously receive and share information with the rest of the world. The geographical isolation that had affected Australia since its settlement had all but dissolved.

Close Study of an
Australian Poet
Paul Kelly Poetry
From Little Things, Big Things Grow
Paul Kelly has been described as the poet laureate of Australian music. During a career spanning 30 years Kelly has written more than 40 songs. His lyrics reflect the everyday aspects of life, and often include references to the vastness of the Australian landscape and Australian culture. He is sometimes described as a chronicler of the times, seen as not only a musician but as a songwriter whose work falls into the tradition of Australian poetry.

Kelly’s musical career began on the streets of Hobart and moved to the pub scene in Melbourne where he quickly gathered a following for his raw lyrics and individual style. He formed the band Paul Kelly and the Dots which published two albums, Talk and Manila, before parting ways in 1982. Kelly moved to Sydney and put up the money for studio time to record the likes of 'White Train', 'Adelaide' and 'Little Decisions'. The album was a success and Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls went on to record the hit double album, Gossip, with guitarist Steve Connolly, bass player John Schofield, and keyboarder Peter Bull. This was followed by Under the Sun and a name change to Paul Kelly and the Messengers.

Much of Paul Kelly’s work also reflects his social conscience, as it comments on important social and historical events and their significance to Australian identity and life. Several of his songs highlight the plight of Australia’s Indigenous people including 'Maralinga (Rainy Land)', a song about atomic testing by the British in Australia’s outback and its effects on the Indigenous people of that area. On the album Comedy, written in 1991, Kelly co-wrote one track with Aboriginal songwriter, Kev Carmody. The song, 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', focused on the start of the Indigenous land rights movement in the Northern Territory by describing the Gurindji people’s struggle for their land. Kelly also co-wrote 'When I First Met Your Ma' and 'Rally round the Drum' with Aboriginal songwriter Archie Roach.

Paul Kelly and the Messengers disbanded in 1991 and Kelly collaborated with Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi before establishing a solo career. He’s joined many artists around the world and has toured Australia, Europe, the USA and Canada to the delight of audiences. Perhaps his greatest fear is becoming type-cast as a songwriter; this may explain his frequent changes in direction and collaborations with so many successful performers.
Refer to your Paul Kelly booklet and read "Songlines of an uncommon man" and "Don't start me talking - lyrics."
1. Summarise the articles
2. To what extent do you think Kelly's personal life influenced has his writing?
1. Make a summary of the context in which Paul Kelly's poems were written.
2. Given the context of Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, what kinds of issues do you think would be raised in popular music at this time?
3. Find an example of a song written in this period that explores these ideas. What techniques are used to represent these ideas?
4. Why is music such a popular means of exploring various social issues?
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