It was twenty years ago today.
On November 22, 1997, Australian rock star Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Ritz-Carlton hotel room in Sydney. His death was ruled a suicide, although family and friends have continued to dispute this.
The question remains: What would cause a young man, at the top of his game, a wealthy international superstar, a new father, much loved by family, friends and the public, to take his own life?
But maybe there is more to this story. The human mind is a complexity, full of perceived tragedies and horrific imaginings. There are dark nights of the soul when problems explode and life simply gives no mercy.
Hutchence was apparently in the middle of one.
Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, Australia on January 22, 1960, to working class parents. The family lived in Hong Kong for much of Michael’s childhood, but returned to Australia in 1972. Michael joined a rock band with his friends the Farriss brothers when he was just 17 years old. That band was eventually named INXS. They rose to fame and fortune in the 1980’s and 90’s. Some critics consider INXS to be one of Australia’s finest bands.
They had a fresh, funky sound, exemplified in their best selling album ‘Kick’. Writing team Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence came up with catchy pop songs as well as deep and soulful ballads. The six talented musicians included horn, keyboard and saxophone players. None, however, could match the illustrious Hutch on stage.
As the band’s lead singer, he had a seductive voice, plenty of feral cat moves, and a Mick-Jagger-like star quality that is rarely duplicated. Anyone who saw Hutch in concert was hooked. And I mean anyone! Men, women, young, old, straight, gay, no matter. All went gaga for Hutch.
In 1994, Hutchence began having an affair with celebrity Paula Yates, who was then married to another famous rock star, Bob Geldoff. Eventually Paula divorced Bob, but what followed was a nasty custody battle that apparently made everyone miserable. In the meantime, Hutch and Paula also had a child of their own, a daughter named Tiger Lily. Legal issues forced Paula to remain in England, continually separated from Hutchence.
Hutch had also experienced a terrible head injury which reportedly left him with a bunch of physical ailments, including loss of his sense of smell. These difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that the band was, by then, losing its star status, no longer filling stadiums and playing to smaller crowds. According to some, Hutchence had entered the dreaded realm of (gasp!) “aging rock star”. (At the ripe old age of 37.)
I know! Who makes these dumb rules?
Michael Hutchence’s corpse was found at 11:50 AM on the morning of November 22, 1997 in the Sydney Ritz Carlton. He died alone. Friends and visitors had been partying with him in the hotel room as late (or early!) as 5AM the same morning. Allegedly the activities included lots of alcohol and unnamed drugs. Strangely, no coroner’s report was filed as to which substances Hutch actually had in his body when he died. The official cause of his death was strangulation by hanging.
But there is another side to the story. By many accounts, Hutch was a bit kinky. He may never have intended to actually kill himself, but was merely involved in a few rounds of autoerotic asphyxiation.
This story gets even sadder. Three years later, Paula Yates died of a drug overdose, leaving Tiger Lily an orphan. Bob Geldoff became her legal guardian. She recently began a modeling career, no doubt owing a lot to her father’s gorgeous looks.
Michael Hutchence remains one of the great, gone too soon artists. On this day we honor him. Here, INXS perform a patchwork of their song ‘Mystify’. Hope you like it!
Hutch Rock In Peace!