Paul Kelly (musician)

From Academic Kids

Paul Kelly is a musician, singer and songwriter, born in South Australia in 1955, but long based in - and associated with - Melbourne, Australia. He was raised in the South Australian capital, Adelaide, the sixth of nine children.


Musical history

Kelly is considered an icon of Australian music. His output has ranged from bluegrass to studio-oriented dub reggae, but his core output comfortably straddles folk, rock, and even some country. His lyrics, simply and laconically voiced, have managed to speak to Australian experiences and history perhaps more broadly and directly than any other artist, from "Bradman"[1] (, about the Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, through "To Her Door"[2] (, a tale of a struggling couple's breakup and attempts at reconciliation, to "Every Fucking City"[3] (, a darkly comic story of a backpacker chasing a former girlfriend through a Europe stripped of distinctive national character.

Kelly's career can be broken into three distinct periods: first as Paul Kelly & The Dots; then as Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls/Messengers (the Coloured Girls and Messengers were the same band, but in the US, albums were released under the Messengers name to avoid causing offence, though none was intended - the name was a homage to Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side"; eventually, the band changed their name in all territories for reasons of consistency); and lastly as Paul Kelly the solo artist (a period that also included his involvement with side-project Professor Ratbaggy, a more groove-oriented and less song-based ensemble).

The Dots period (roughly 1978-1982), saw the release of two albums, Talk in 1981 and Manila in 1982. It was followed by a year or two of uncertainly as Kelly grew as a songwriter but lacked a recording contract. In the liner notes to his 1997 Greatest Hits Collection, Songs From The South, Kelly makes special mention of Michelle Higgins, a former Mushroom Records employee who "locked herself in a hotel room ... and refused to leave until [he] had a record deal".

The Coloured Girls/Messengers period (roughly 1985 - 1992), saw the release of (including Post) six albums: Post in 1985; Gossip in 1986; Under The Sun in 1987; So Much Water So Close To Home in 1989; Comedy in 1991; and Hidden Things, a collection of B-Sides and rarities, in 1992.

The "classic" Coloured Girls/Messengers line-up was:

  • Michael Barclay - drums
  • Jon Scofield - bass
  • Peter Bull - keyboards
  • Steve Connolly - guitar

Though he has worked with other songwriters since 1992, the years from then 'til present, might be considered his solo period. His first solo release was the (truly solo) live double CD Live, May 1992 in 1992, followed by Wanted Man in 1994; Deeper Water in 1995; Live At The Continental and The Esplanade in 1996; Words And Music in 1998; Smoke (with Uncle Bill) in 1999; Professor Ratbaggy (as member of Professor Ratbaggy) in 1999; Nothing But A Dream in 2001; and Ways & Means in 2004.

During his solo years, Kelly has also worked as a composer of film and TV scores including Lantana, Silent Partner and One Night The Moon in 2001; and Fireflies in 2004.

In 2002 and 2003, two albums of Paul Kelly songs were released: Women At The Well featured songs performed by female artists including Bic Runga, Jenny Morris, Renee Geyer, Magic Dirt, Rebecca Barnard, Christine Anu, and Casey Chambers; and Stories Of Me featured artists like James Reyne and Jeff Lang.

A book of Paul Kelly's lyrics, titled simply "Lyrics" was published in 1993. A second anthology of lyrics was first published in 1999 - "Don't Start Me Talking (Lyrics 1984-2004)" - and is now in its second edition (2004).[4] (

Kelly has written songs with and for many other artists, including Renee Geyer, Kate Ceberano, Vika and Linda Bull, Nick Cave, Kasey Chambers, Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach and Troy Cassar-Daley. He has also covered songs by other groups including Hot Chocolate, and Australian Crawl.



Paul Kelly & The Dots

  • Talk (1981)
  • Manilla (1982)

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls

Paul Kelly & The Messengers

Paul Kelly

Professor Ratbaggy

Paul Kelly

External links


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