“Australians of all ages and from all walks of life are familiar with John Schumann’s song, “I Was Only 19”. “John Schumann is a one-off – the artist/intellectual with the unerring popular touch and a campfire voice. He belongs to an Australian tradition of yarn spinners and song-makers. To the familiar Australian and treasured front bar ‘wisdom’ and the paddock fence stoicism, he adds a depth of feeling and an acuity of perception that go beyond the bounds of ‘folk’ and ‘popular’ and are the attributes of the true, creative artist.”
Professor Brian Matthews
Originally coming to prominence as leader of the legendary folk-rock band Redgum and his Vietnam veterans’ anthem I Was Only 19, John Schumann continues to occupy an important place on the Australian cultural landscape. His work on behalf of Vietnam veterans – and indeed veterans of all conflicts – has earned him a revered place in the hearts of veterans and their families.
In 2006, John Schumann was invited by the owners and managers of the recently refurbished Logan RSL Club in Queensland to mount a free community concert to coincide with Anzac Day. The concert was held in the park opposite the Logan RSL Club and attracted a crowd of over 7000.
ABC Queensland broadcast concert live across the state. Following up on the success of the broadcast, John was approached by ABC Music to record the songs which comprised the concert. In 2008, John Schumann and his band the Vagabond Crew released “Behind the Lines” – a collection of Australian contemporary songs which address, directly and/or indirectly, Australia at war.
With John Schumann’s songs “I was only 19” and “Safe behind the Wire” forming the album’s nucleus, John and the Vagabond Crew rearranged and reinterpreted a range of very famous and very successful Australian contemporary popular songs about war.
“Behind the Lines” is, in many ways, a ‘concept’ album and has become one of John Schumann’s most successful releases.
The songs include but are not limited to:
The Band Play Waltzing Matilda
Scots of the Riverina
Waltzing Matilda/Tom Traubert’s Blues
When the War Is over
Khe Sahn (the Long Tan version)
To an Old Mate
Glass on the Bar
In recent years, John has added to this collection of songs his own compositions “Anzac Biscuits” and the very moving “On Every Anzac Day” – a tribute to the indigenous Australians who have served in wars from the Boer War right up to the current conflict in Iraq.
Australia at War – in words and music
“Australia at War – in words and music” – comprises a performance of these songs linked by a moving and evocative narrative comprising newspaper reports of the day, poems, letters from the front and sober reflections.
A simple but starkly effective concert performance of a little over an hour’s duration, ‘Australia at War’ is a dignified and respectful commemoration bringing into focus the very best of Australian song-writing.
It is a performance not to be missed.