Exciting and impassioned are just two words to describe the unmistakable voice of Australian rock and soul legend Doug Parkinson.
The multiple award winner is known for such hits as ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Without You’, I’ll Be Around’ and ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.’
When working as a cadet journalist at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Doug struck up a friendship with sports writer Jeff Collerson whose passions included greyhound racing, fine wine and a love of black American music. He was invited to Collerson’s home and upon listening to his extensive and meticulously catalogued collection, it became a defining moment in Doug’s life. He had never heard music such as this before and at that very moment he knew journalism was not for him and that music would become the essential meaning in his life and shape his future.
Parkinson’s first band Strings and Things, formed with the children of legendary test cricketer Sid Barnes, made a minor impact around Sydney in 1966. By 1967 however he had teamed up with some of Sydney’s best musical minds to form The Questions and began exploring the outer regions of psychedelic rock. Their first recordings established them as one of the more innovative and interesting acts in a rapidly evolving scene.
In 1967 the band supported The Who and Small Faces tour nationally and were placed second in the finals of the prestigious Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds. This led to appearances in Melbourne and this is where the story really begins.
A year later he formed Doug Parkinson in Focus which was the musician’s musician’s outfit of the time. The band would later prove to be a benchmark in Australian rock folklore.
With this group he recorded the Beatles’ Dear Prudence in 1969 and it topped the charts. Parkinson re-interpreted this masterpiece and made it his own. This song became a cult recording for Parkinson and his band. He followed it up with another spectacular chart topper Without You. The same year they won Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds and played to sell out shows around the country.
In Focus recorded a third single Baby Blue Eyes which immediately entered the charts but the single died soon after, a casualty of the notorious Record Ban which denied Australian artists airplay.
After a two year hard slog with no prospects of recording Doug Parkinson made a major decision and went solo. In 1973 Doug took on his first major stage role in the concert production of The Who’s rock opera Tommy. He recorded an album No Regrets. He was involved in a media storm over a political commercial. More touring, this time as a solo performer. A lonely existence. But other roles beckoned.
1975-1976 he appeared in two shows Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Ned Kelly. A steady stream of music and theatre followed. He collaborated and recorded two tracks for the cult film Stone and had another top ten hit with Everlasting Love.
He teamed up again with old friend Duncan McGuire to form the Southern Star Band. Once again it was a band made in heaven. The group included guitar whiz Tommy Emmanuel, drum prodigy Mark Kennedy and pianist Frank Esler‚Smith. They recorded the album I’ll Be Around which produced two top 10 hits The Hungry Years and I’ll Be Around. The following year they supported Bob Marley and the Wailers on what was to be the legendary singer’s last tour.
In 1981 he recorded a solo album Heartbeat to Heartbeat which produced another top 10 hit The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore with vocalist Broderick Smith.
The early 80’s saw Parkinson star in the role of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. The production toured Australia for 12 months to rave reviews before final performances in Singapore and Hong Kong.
His distinctive voice was also in demand in the advertising world. He recorded packages for Coke (which won an international award), BHP, Toyota, Carlton United Breweries, Sanyo, Philips and a host of other corporate giants. He was the voice on packages for radio stations 2SM, 3AK, 3UZ, 5AD, 4MMM, 6PM and the 0-10 television network. He has recorded theme songs for many Rugby League Football Clubs.
During this extraordinary career Doug has appeared alongside many international stars including The Who, The Small Faces, Paul Jones, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Pointer Sisters, Thelma Huston, Bob Marley and The Wailers, and Randy Crawford just to mention a few. He has appeared alongside and dueted with so many fine Australian artists that the list is too long to appear here.
During the late eighties and early nineties his theatre credits continued. Pap Finn in the lavish hit musical Big River and The Big Bopper in the smash hit musical Buddy. The show became the box office phenomenon of its time and Doug’s rendition of Chantilly Lace evolved into a showstopper. During this period he somehow found the time to appear as the Barrister in Mike Batt’s musical The Hunting of the Snark.
More theatre roles followed. Grease The Arena Spectacular, Happy Days and a personal favorite as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Parkinson’s most recent recording is a beautiful selection of soul/jazz standards sung by a man with an amazing gift we have all grown up with and loved for over four decades, a voice rich in soul and beauty. This album has received extraordinary reviews. The Melbourne Herald Sun labeled Parkinson ‘Australia’s greatest singer’ and The Australian newspaper described him as ‘a rolled gold superstar.’
He has been the recipient of three ‘Mo’ Awards and In 2014 he was awarded the Australian Club Industry’s ‘Original Music Performer’ of the year award.
Just to top things off, he joined a select group of Aussie stars when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award that same year.
Aside from being a multi award winning performer, Parkinson describes his charity work as being a most rewarding facet of his career.
“I especially like doing my bit for the kids. I’m so full of admiration for the parents and carers. I think most Australians are generous and caring when it comes to helping those less fortunate.”
‘’My love of music has brought me many rewards and I feel fortunate to be able to give back’, he said.