Mushroom Records co-founder Michael Gudinski died in Melbourne overnight and has been remembered for opening doors for many First Nations artists, including Yothu Yindi.
Joining a chorus of tributes posted to social media, legendary song-man Archie Roach said it was “probably the saddest day for Australian music”.
Mr Roach was signed to Mushroom Records in 1990 (releasing his debut album that year, the landmark Charcoal Lane), and has remained with the company for the past 30 years.
“Michael was a staunch supporter of the work we do,” a post on Mr Roach’s Instagram read.
“He championed First Nations musicians like Yothu Yindi, Troy Cassar-Daley and Dan Sultan to name a few, along with myself.
“I believe our relationship grew stronger through the years as he shared his own story and heritage as I do. A good friend who will be sadly missed.
“Our thoughts are with his family and all who are his Mushroom family.”
Mr Gudinski most recently promoted Midnight Oil’s Makarrata tour and attended their performance in Sydney last week, which included a line-up of First Nations collaborators.
He was passionate about Australia’s live local music scene and became an advocate in 2020 for finding alternative revenue streams for struggling artists amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Posting on Twitter, Yorta Yorta rapper, Briggs, said he was meant to call Mr Gudinski on the day of his passing.
“Michael Gudinski, what a powerhouse. Rest easy,” his tweet read.
'He knew a good song when he heard it'
Mr Gudinski saw Yothu Yindi through their golden era, signing them in 1988 after hearing the track Mainstream.
Speaking with NITV News, former Yothu Yindi manager, Alan James, said Mr Gudinski took a chance at a time when few labels were signing First Nations artists.
"In those days, it was quite difficult. No one was interested in Aboriginal or Indigenous music," he said.
"And so, after a lot of door knocking we finally got to meet the great Michael Gudinski and he listened to the song Mainstream and really liked it.
"He thought of it as a rock and roll song... and subsequently signed the band which was a really breakthrough moment I think, for Indigenous music in Australia."
Mr James said Gudinski knew a good song when he heard it and had the business savvy to make it a hit. He was also remembered as someone who stood up for his artists when they experienced racism.
Reflecting on Yothu Yindi's 1992 trip to Melbourne for the ARIAs, Mr James said the band was racially profiled and rejected from a local pub.
"Michael threw his organisation in behind the lead singer," he said.
"It was a good example of him using his resources and supporting the lead singer through really difficult times."
He said his legacy will be bigger than his larger-than-life personality.
"I don't think anyone else will ever have such a big footprint on all aspects of recording publishing touring, national, international," he said.
"He really is the guy."