Iconic Australian singer Dr G Yunupingu has died in a Darwin hospital at age 46. For cultural reasons his full name and images of the late artist are not being published.
By
NITV Staff Writers, Rangi Hirini

26 Jul 2017 - 8:04 AM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2017 - 10:11 AM

Australia is mourning the loss of its most prominent Indigenous musician, Dr G Yunupingu, whose exquisite, ethereal voice propelled him onto the world stage.

Tributes are flowing for the 46-year-old who has died in Darwin.

He'd suffered years of ill health, having contracted Hepatitis B as a child, leaving him with liver and kidney disease.

Yesterday Mark Grose from Dr G Yunupingu's music label Skinnyfish Music said his death showed there was still far to great a gap for Indigenous Australians in the area of health and life expectancy

"It says to me, it does say that we have to re-double our efforts, there is a continuing gap that needs to be closed, and we all need to be part of closing that gap and recognising that the Indigenous people we are friends with, that we socialise with, that we work with, their life expectancy is not as good as mine as a non-Indigenous person and I think all of us need to take some responsibility to help work towards better outcomes for Aboriginal people."

Born blind, Dr Yunupingu first picked up a guitar at the age of six, learning to play it upside down because he was left handed.

His unique voice spawned a career that saw him sell more than half a million albums, recorded in his native Yolngu tongue, and perform for audiences that included the Queen and former US President Barack Obama.

Friend Vaughan Williams took the artist to hospital last week, amid concerns he may not have been receiving renal treatment. He died in the Royal Darwin Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

"He was a musical genius who could do rock, gospel, soul. He could do it all," 

Mr Williams has told the ABC, saying his death was all the more crushing because he felt it was "preventable".

"I feel he was trapped in the same cycle of bad health that so many Indigenous people are trapped in," he said.

Tributes to 'dear friend' and 'great leader'

Prominent Indigenous musicians have offered tributes, including singer Jessica Mauboy.

"Sadly we have lost a dear friend. I am saddened by this news, very sad," she told NITV News.

"We have lost a great leader, a legend in our music industry, our community and an even bigger loss to the world."

In a post today on his official Facebook page singer Archie Roach said Dr Yunypingu had helped him connect with country.

"So with a broken heart I still hear his voice that gave me such comfort and peace and reconnected me to country; that will be so sadly missed with the passing of such a beautiful man. Condolences to his family and community," he wrote.

On Twitter Musician Briggs said: "I'm really going to miss my friend, Dr. G Yunupingu. I'll find the right words soon. Love to his family."

Troy Cassar Daley said: "Rip Brother Dr G Yunupingu, you were a light among us love to his Family & the Galiwin’ku community NT"

Others including Midnight Oil frontman and former federal government minister Peter Garrett also took to Twitter to mourn the loss.

"My dear friend Dr Yunupingu - a truly great musician - is gone," he posted.

"Very sad news. Too young, so much left to give. Heart goes out to family."

Indigenous leaders and politicians have also paid their respects to the musician.

In a joint statement Labor MPs Warren Snowdon and Malarndirri McCarthy described Dr Yunupingu as the voice of the nation.

"He has been widely described by many as the voice of a nation, he will be remembered as one of Australia's most prominent musicians having been the highest selling Indigenous artist in history," they said.

"Through his music, his foundation and leadership Dr G Yunupingu has left a great legacy for all of us. He will continue to fill the world with his music and aspiration. "

Dr Yunupingu's soulful and emotive voice came to the fore in 2008 with the release of his debut album, which peaked at No.3 on the ARIA charts and went triple platinum.

Sydney Morning Herald critic Bruce Elder has described him as possessing "the greatest voice this continent has ever recorded".

In 2012 he was forced to cancel a number of European performances due to illness, including performing at the London Olympic Games. He had found substantial success there, with his debut album hitting the top 10 in both Switzerland and Germany.

Prior to his solo success Dr Yunupingu had been a member of the legendary Indigenous band Yothu Yindi, fronted by his late uncle M Yunupingu, who was named Australian of the Year for 1992.

He followed in his uncle's footsteps, being named the Northern Territory's Australian of the Year in 2009.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said Australia had lost "a good man, the son of a great people and a voice which could evoke an extraordinary magic".

His publicist posted a statement on Facebook describing him as a "great Australian".

"Dr G Yunupingu is remembered today as one of the most important figures in Australian music history, blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin'ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language," the statement read.

"The highest selling Indigenous artist in history, Dr G Yunupingu released two subsequent top five studio albums Rrakala and The Gospel Album, achieved a swag of ARIA Awards, performed across the globe for audiences including Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama and released the first Indigenous language single to reach the top five, all the while continuing to call Elcho Island home."

His legion of fans are also mourning the singer's loss.

"Grace Dr.G.Yunupingu. We're a little bit heartbroken. We've put our kids to
bed to the backdrop of his music since they were tiny. Just astoundingly beautiful," Victorian woman Natalie Dillon wrote on Facebook.

A documentary about Dr Yunupingu's life is scheduled to premiere next month at the Melbourne Film Festival.

His family is expected to be offered a state funeral, News Corp reported.

Additional reporting from AAP