Today I will be attending the funeral of my dear friend David Page. There will be hundreds of people there celebrating the life of this remarkable man, who was Bangarra Dance Theatre’s incredibly talented musical director. I know there will be many tears as well as laughter today as we remember David. But most of all I know there will be immense love – and respect.
I first met David or “Duboo” as he was known to his friends, way back in 1989 when I was a 19-year-old student at NAISDA Dance College. Duboo, then 28, was the school’s bus driver/janitor/music producer and was much loved by everyone. He was so incredibly funny, he just cracked me up all the time. But he also had a serious side. Whenever I asked him how he was he’d take the time to thoughtfully tell me what was going on with him. You really felt like he wanted you to be a part of his life.
He was so musically talented I was in awe of him. He could sing, write, produce, play instruments – he just did it all. Although I was a dancer at the time, he was one of the first people to recognise that I had singing potential. He encouraged me to pursue singing and songwriting, and was the first person to record my voice generously giving me the creative whirlpool of his musical knowledge.
One night at college Duboo was helping myself and my flatmate Frances Rings (now a well-known choreographer) create our own music for a project. He stayed with us in the studio almost all night to help us finish. Finally at 4am he went home and Frances and I collapsed on the studio couches. The next morning David returned and woke us up. As I went to brush my hair, to my horror I discovered I had somehow fallen asleep on a huge wad of chewing gum!
The gum was all through one side of my hair. Both Duboo and Fran fell about laughing as I tugged frantically at the horrible mess which just made it worse. We tried to get it loose with tape cleaning fluid but it wouldn’t budge. I started to panic as other students trickled in. Suddenly Duboo walked quickly up to me and swiftly cut off my gummy hair with a pair of scissors. I stared at the hair on the floor in shock. “You need to get to class, so off you go,” he explained matter of factly. I scuttled into class with half of my hair missing looking like a mad woman! We laughed about that one for years. It’s still one of my favourite memories of him.
Soon after Duboo and his choreographer brother Stephen became involved with Bangarra Dance Theatre, I began pursuing music. Duboo let me use the small studio at Bangarra in Sydney’s Redfern. The music he was creating in collaboration with Stephen’s choreography was really fresh and melody driven whilst blending in traditional tribal sounds. It was amazingly innovative, nobody else was doing it, and it pioneered a whole other musical genre to complement the dancing. It really influenced the direction I’d take with my own pop sound and Duboo’s early championing of me was essential to my career taking off.
Despite his immense talent, at the same time Duboo was very unassuming and modest. It was only years after I became a recording artist that I discovered to my immense surprise, whilst watching him perform an autobiographical stage play, that he’d once been a child singing star. Back in 1975 as a 13-years-old he released a cover of the Neil Sedaka record Happy Birthday Sweet 16 under the name of Davey Page.
Dubbo’s song was a hit in Australia and he was offered a Motown recording deal. However after his voice soon broke he was abruptly dropped from the deal. I can only imagine how much that kind of experience would profoundly affect you. Here you are a young kid living this glorious life as the toast of Australia, and then suddenly no one cares about you anymore through no fault of your own. It would have been a heavy burden to bear.
As the years went on we’d dip in and out of each other’s lives, always so pleased for each other’s success. Even if we hadn’t seen each other for a while, whenever we met up again it felt just like old times. Those kinds of people are special.
When I heard the week before last that Duboo had passed away at the age of 55 I was incredibly saddened and shocked. It made me wonder when I’d last picked up the phone to call him and say, “Hello brother.”
Not only has Duboo done so much for the Australian entertainment industry, he has also been a true inspiration to the Aboriginal community. He was a respected elder, brother, uncle, father figure, mentor and friend. I always saw him as timeless and ageless – a warm and wise old soul. He was one of the most giving people I have ever met – willing to help anyone.
I feel Duboo’s story ended way too soon with still more of it to be written. It’s very sad that this is all we’re left with now – an enduring legacy. But what a beautiful story it’s been.