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Kev Carmody

Kevin Daniel "Kev" Carmody[1] (born 1946 in Cairns, Queensland) is an Indigenous Australian singer-songwriter.[2][3][4] His song "From Little Things Big Things Grow" was recorded with co-writer Paul Kelly[5] for their 1993 single; it was covered by the Get Up Mob (including guest vocals by both Carmody and Kelly) in 2008 and peaked at number four on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles charts.[6]

Kev Carmody
Birth name Kevin Daniel Carmody
Born 1946 (age 71–72)
Origin Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Genres Acoustic, Folk rock, country, Australian rock
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments vocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active 1987–current
Labels Larrikin/Festival
Song Cycles
Website Official website

On 27 August 2009, Carmody was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame alongside The Dingoes, Little Pattie, Mental As Anything and John Paul Young.[7][8][9]

In 2009, Carmody was a recipient of the Queensland Greats Awards.[10]


Early yearsEdit

Kev Carmody was born in 1946 in Cairns, Queensland. His father was a second-generation Irish descendant, his mother an Indigenous Australian.[2][3][4] His younger brother, Laurie, was born three and a half years later.[3] His family moved to southern Queensland in early 1950, and he grew up on a cattle station near Goranba, 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of Dalby in the Darling Downs area of south eastern Queensland.[3][4][11] His parents worked as drovers, moving cattle along stock routes.[3] At ten years of age, Carmody and his brother were taken from their parents under the assimilation policy as part of the Stolen Generations and sent to a Catholic school in Toowoomba.[2][3][12] After schooling, he returned to his rural roots and worked for seventeen years as a country labourer,[4][13] including droving, shearing, bag lumping, wool pressing and welding.[4][14]

In 1967, he married Helen, with whom he has three sons; they later divorced but remain "good mates".[3] In 1978, at the age of 33, Carmody enrolled in university,[11] Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (now part of the University of Southern Queensland).

At the night time I was always just interested in music, so I started to study music (by himself) and got to a standard, when I moved to Toowoomba and got a proper music teacher. And she said to me, ‘you know, you're miles ahead of the standard they’d require to get into the music course at the University of Southern Queensland.

— Kev Carmody[15]

Due to his limited schooling, Carmody’s reading and writing skills were not up to required university standard. Undeterred, he suggested to the history tutor that until his writing was suitable he would present his research in a musical format accompanied by guitar.[12] While this was a novel approach at university, it was in line with the far older indigenous tradition of oral history. Although Carmody had extensive historical knowledge, learnt by oral traditions, much of it could not be found in library history books and was attributed to 'unpublished works'.[15] Carmody completed his Bachelor of Arts degree,[13] then postgraduate studies and a Diploma of Education at the University of Queensland, followed by commencing a PhD in History, on the Darling Downs 1830–1860.[4]

I was supposed to be studying history and music, but I'd be in the library with books on everything, geology, theorems of thermodynamics. I wished I'd had the time to take every course.

— Kev Carmody[16]

Whilst at university, Carmody had used music as a means of implementing oral history in tutorials, which led to his later career.

Music careerEdit

In the early 1980s, Carmody began his musical career. He signed a recording contract in 1987[3] and his first album, Pillars of Society, was released on the Rutabagas label (a label founded by artist Frances Mahony and technologist Joe Hayes); the rights were later transferred to Larrikin Records/EMI) in December 1988.[2][4] It drew heavily upon country and folk styles with tracks such as "Black Deaths in Custody" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal" describing ignorance and oppression experienced by indigenous Australians.[2][14] In the song "Thou Shalt Not Steal", Carmody draws attention to the hypocrisy of British settlers who brought Christianity to Indigenous Australians, including the commandment prohibiting theft, and yet took the land that the Aboriginal people had inhabited for more than 60,000 years. He emphasises the importance of land to the indigenous people, "The land’s our heritage and spirit", and turns the Christian lesson given to indigenous people around: "We say to you yes, whiteman, thou shalt not steal".[17] A Rolling Stone (Australia) journalist, Bruce Elder, described it as "the best album ever released by an Aboriginal musician and arguably the best protest album ever made in Australia".[4][14] Pilllar of Society was nominated for a 1989 ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release. In subsequent recordings Carmody adopted a broad range of musical styles, from reggae to rock and roll.

That first album was acoustic because we didn't have enough money for anything else, but as I went on, I was always exploring sound. One of the things he [Carmody's grandfather] said to us was, you have to learn to listen to the wind. What he was saying was, use your imagination, widen it out, be aware of things around you. You learn to listen in another way. That's the key to my music. Just opening up to that sensory perception of sound.

— Kev Carmody[16]

Carmody's second album, Eulogy (For a Black Person), released in November 1990, was produced by Connolly,[18] with musical support from the rest of the Messengers and members of pioneering Aboriginal rock band Mixed Relations.[2][14] A review of the album noted that "Using a combination of folk and country music his hard-hitting lyrics deal with such potent material as the David Gundy slaying,[19] black deaths in custody, land rights and Aboriginal pride and dignity. Carmody is deeply committed, powerfully intelligent and persuasively provocative. He uses images of revolutionaries... and challenges white Australia to stare unrelentingly at the despair which under pins Aboriginal society".[20] The first single from the album, "Blood Red Rose", released in April 1992, was described by Carmody as "a comment on personal isolation. Late night, big city alienation",[21] whilst the B-side, "Elly", is the moving story of a young woman attempting to escape the poverty and racism of western Queensland, who finds herself trapped in Surfers Paradise working in the sex industry.[21] Eulogy (For a Black Person) was nominated for a 1992 ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release.

Early in 1991 Carmody co-wrote a song, "From Little Things Big Things Grow", with Paul Kelly;[5] it was an historical account of the Gurindji tribe drovers' walkout led by Vincent Lingiari at Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory during the 1960s, the incident which sparked off the indigenous land rights movement.[2] It was first recorded by Paul Kelly & the Messengers on Comedy in May and included Steve Connolly as guitarist of the Messengers.[2]

Carmody's 1992 EP Street Beat was nominated for a 1993 ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release.

Carmody's third album, Bloodlines, was released in July 1993 and included his own version of "From Little Things Big Things Grow", with Kelly guesting on vocals, which was issued as a single. Bloodlines received a 1994 ARIA Award nomination for Best Indigenous Release, and the single "On the Wire" was nominated for this award in 1995.

Also in 1993 Carmody was the subject of a musical documentary, Blood Brothers - From Little Things Big Things Grow, by Rachel Perkins and directed by Trevor Graham, which explored Carmody's life, using music clips and historical footage.[22]

After the release of his fourth album, Images And Illusions, in September 1995, produced by Steve Kilbey of The Church,[14][23] The album was nominated for a 1996 ARIA Award for Best Indigenous Release. Carmody re-evaluated his life and career, reducing the demands placed on him by the mainstream recording industry.[14] He continued performing, as a musician and public speaker, to audiences as diverse as the National Press Club and Aboriginal Australians in prison.[14]

2000 saw the release of Messages a compilation of songs from Carmody's first four albums. In 2001, together with Kelly, Mairead Hannan, John Romeril, Deirdre Hannan and Alice Garner, Carmody assisted in writing the musical score for the Australian film One Night the Moon.[24][25] The soundtrack won a Screen Music Award at the 2002 Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)/Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC) Awards.[26]

After a break of nearly ten years Carmody finally released a new album in 2004. The album, Mirrors, was completely self-financed and distributed. It was recorded at a friend's property "down the road" and was his first album recorded with computer technology.[12][14] The songs on Mirrors cover a range of contemporary issues including refugee treatment and his thoughts on United States President George W. Bush, accompanied by the captured real life sounds of the Australian bush.[14]

In 2007, Kelly organised the double CD, Cannot Buy My Soul - The Songs of Kev Carmody, with tribute songs by various artists on one disc and a second disc of songs by Carmody himself.[3][27]

I first heard his music 20 years ago, and was drawn straight away to his blend of politics and prayer, poetry, anger and pride. His body of work is one of our great cultural treasures.

— Paul Kelly[16]

On 31 October, Carmody was a special guest at the TV music channel MAX's "The Max Sessions: Powderfinger, Concert For The Cure"[28] singing alongside front man Bernard Fanning to the controversial "Black Tears" and also joined in with the encore of "These Days". The concert was a fundraiser and thank you to the "unsung heroes" of breast cancer with an invitation-only audience made up of a special group of people – those who have suffered and survived breast cancer and their support networks. The concert closed Breast Cancer Awareness Month and was the brainchild of 20-year-old Nick Vindin, who had lost his mother Kate to the disease a few years earlier.[29]

In the aftermath of the Australian Labor Government's 2008 apology to indigenous Australians, Carmody and Kelly reprised their song "From Little Things Big Things Grow" by incorporating samples from speeches by Prime Ministers Paul Keating in 1992 and Kevin Rudd in 2008.[14][30] Released under the name The GetUp Mob, part of the GetUp! advocacy group, the song peaked at #4 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles charts.[6] This version featured vocals by Carmody and Kelly, as well as other prominent Australian artists (including Urthboy, Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, Radical Son, Jane Tyrrell, Dan Sultan, Joel Wenitong and Ozi Batla).[14] Carmody has reduced his musical activities due to the effects of arthritis.[12][14]

He lives with his partner Beryl on a 27-hectare (60-acres) bush block in south-east Queensland.[3] On 22 October 2008, a live album from two Sydney performances by Carmody and various artists was released on DVD as Cannot Buy My Soul: Kev Carmody.[31]

On 18 April 2009, SBS TV show, RocKwiz, Episode 36 featured country singers, Archie Roach and Sara Storer, who sang a duet with "From Little Things Big Things Grow".[32]

On 27 August 2009, Carmody was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame alongside The Dingoes, Little Pattie, Mental As Anything and John Paul Young,[7][8][9] Carmody's first reaction was to laugh and reply "I must be getting into the Hall of Fame with the lowest record sales in history".[33] At the ceremony, Missy Higgins inducted Carmody, who accepted the induction,

I accepted this for the Koori culture, the community and the family [...] It's a recognition of the input we've had on music. My songs came from what my grandmother, my mother, father, aunty and uncles told me. I'm just a conduit of stories.[34]

— Kev Carmody, 27 August 2009

Carmody was joined onstage by Paul Kelly, Dan Kelly, Missy Higgins and John Butler to perform "From Little Things Big Things Grow".[34]



Carmody has written, co-written or edited the following:[38][39]

  • Kelly, Paul (2008). From Little Things Big Things Grow. Kev Carmody, with paintings by Peter Hudson, illustrated by Kalkarinji School children from Gurindji Country. Camberwell East, Vic: One Day Hill Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9805643-1-0.



Studio albumsEdit

  • Pillars of Society - Rutabagas/Larrikin Records/Festival Records/Song Cycles (December 1988)
  • Eulogy (For A Black Person) - Festival (November 1990)
  • Bloodlines[40] - Festival/Song Cycles (July 1993)
  • Images and Illusions - Festival/Song Cycles (September 1995)
  • Mirrors - Song Cycles (May 2003)

Compilation albumsEdit

Live albumsEdit

  • Cannot Buy My Soul: Kev Carmody (DVD) - (22 October 2008)

Extended playsEdit

  • Street Beat (EP) - Festival (December 1992)


  • "Jack Deelin" (1988)
  • "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (February 1990)
  • "Eulogy" (November 1990)
  • "From Little Things Big Things Grow" (1991)
  • "Cannot Buy My Soul" (December 1991)
  • "Blood Red Rose" (April 1992)
  • "Living South of the Freeway" (October 1992)
  • "Freedom" (July 1993)
  • "On the Wire" (May 1994)
  • "The Young Dancer Is Dead" (1995)


  1. ^ ""On the Wire" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Kev Carmody'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 23 August 2004. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Talking Heads with Peter Thompson (Kev Carmody)". ABC Television (ABC-TV). 21 May 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Kevin Carmody". Music Australia. National Library of Australia. 10 August 2004. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  5. ^ a b ""From Little Things Big Things Grow" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  6. ^ a b "The GetUp Mob - From Little Things Big Things Grow". Australian Charts Portal. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  7. ^ a b c "ARIA 2009 Hall of Fame announcement of inductees" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). 17 July 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  8. ^ a b c Cashmere, Paul (18 July 2009). "Mental As Anything, John Paul Young head to the Hall of Fame". Cashmere Media Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Collins, Simon (19 July 2009). "Love is in the Air at the ARIA Hall of Fame". The West Australian. West Australian Newspapers Limited. Retrieved 19 July 2009.[dead link]
  10. ^ "2009 Queensland Greats recipients". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  11. ^ a b Vanadewetering, Jodie (23 May 2008). "Indigenous Stories - Local Heroes (Kev Carmody)". ABC Television (ABC TV). Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  12. ^ a b c d Jordan, Seth. "Kev Carmody - holding up society's mirror". Diaspora World Beat. D-Star Media. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  13. ^ a b c "Kev Carmody receives Honorary Degree of Doctor". University of Southern Queensland. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nimmervoll, Ed. "Kev Carmody". Howlspace – The Living History of Our Music (Ed Nimmervoll). Archived from the original on 27 January 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  15. ^ a b "An interview with Kev Carmody". Guerilla Snorefare. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  16. ^ a b c Mengel, Noel (17 February 2007). "Why Kev Carmody rules, OK". The Courier-Mail. News Corporation. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Blood Brothers - From Little Things Big Things Grow - Clip 3:Singing History". National Screen. National Film & Sound Archive. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  18. ^ "Steve Connolly". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 9 March 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  19. ^ "Aboriginal-Police Relations in Redfern: with special reference to the 'Police Raid' of 8 February 1990". National Inquiry into Racist Violence. Australian Human Rights Commission. May 1990. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  20. ^ "Kev Carmody Biography". Kev Carmody. Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  21. ^ a b Wright, dave (15 April 1992). "Kev Carmody launches new single". Green Left. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  22. ^ "Blood Brothers - From Little Things Big Things Grow". Australian Screen. National Screen and Sound Archive. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  23. ^ "Steve Kilbey". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 29 September 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  24. ^ Deming, Mark. "One Night the Moon Production Credits". allmovie. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  25. ^ "One Night the Moon: Original Soundtrack". BigPond. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  26. ^ "One Night the Moon (2001) - Awards". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  27. ^ "Cannot Buy My Soul - The Songs of Kev Carmody". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 29 September 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  28. ^ "MAX Sessions - Powderfinger: A Concert for the Cure". Concert for the Cure. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2001.
  29. ^ "Powderfinger, Missy Higgins, join forces". Nine News. 31 October 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  30. ^ Edwards, Anna (22 April 2008). "Single samples Rudd, Keating". The Courier-Mail. News Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2008.
  31. ^ "Cannot Buy My Soul: Kev Carmody". SBS Shop. SBS. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  32. ^ "SBS :: RocKwiz :: Watch clip :: Archie Roach and Sara Storer". 18 April 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  33. ^ Mengel, Noel (17 July 2009). "Kev Carmody to be inducted into ARIA Hall of Fame". The Courier-Mail. News Corporation. Archived from the original on 5 September 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  34. ^ a b c Adams, Cameron (27 August 2009). "ARIA Award may heal Mental as Anything rift". The Herald Sun. News Corporation. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  35. ^ "Uni to award Carmody honorary doctorate". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 30 April 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  36. ^ Earley, David (12 June 2009). "Singer Kev Carmody named as a Queensland Great". The Courier-Mail. News Corporation. Archived from the original on 9 September 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  37. ^ "Indigenous Community Impact Award". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014.
  38. ^ "author:"Carmody, Kev" search results". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  39. ^ Google Books - search results. Google. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  40. ^

External linksEdit