AustLit logo
Harold Blair Harold Blair i(A60937 works by)
Born: Established: 13 Sep 1924 Cherbourg, Murgon - Wondai area, Kingaroy - Murgon - Kilkivan - Woolooga area, Central West Queensland, Queensland, ; Died: Ceased: 21 May 1976 East Melbourne, East Melbourne - Richmond area, Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

BiographyHistory

Harold Blair was the first Indigenous Australian opera singer of international success. Blair was brought up on the Salvation Army 'Purga' Mission, near Ipswich in Queensland. His mother was forced to leave him there at the age of two when she was sent to work as a domestic help on a remote station. At the age of sixteen, Blair was sent to a dairy farm to work. During this time he started to sing at charity events.

In 1942, Blair was sent to work as a sugar cane cutter, due to the labour shortage during World War Two. Blair often sang while he worked, and because of this he was noticed by Harry Green, a communist trade unionist. Green arranged for auditions and performances to help Blair get noticed. Blair appeared on the radio program Australian Amateur Hour; after his performance was aired, he became popular with the Australian public.

By 1946, Blair's career expanded and he was performing sections of Mozart, Hageman, Delius, Stainer, and Handel's Messiah. Blair also performed within the Indigenous Australian community at the 1947 All Aboriginal Variety Show, a fundraiser for his friend Pastor Doug Nicholl's church in Fitzroy. He performed all around Australia and his concerts were so successful, he needed a police escort. While performing, Blair was studying, and in 1949 he gained Honours at the Melba Conservatorium of Music. After graduating he went to New York to pursue further studies. Upon his return he was contracted to perform several shows by the ABC under a uniquely harsh and restrictive contract that included a clause saying that if he broke the contract he would be forbidden from performing publicly for three years. When Blair fell ill, he was unable to sing and thus forced to break his contract. For the next three years, Blair pursued his love of music by teaching.

Blair travelled to Europe where he participated in Moral Re-Armament groups, which gave him the strong urge to do more for his people. When he returned to Australia he became a strong advocate for Indigenous Australian issues. Blair continued to share his singing through performing and teaching into old age before passing away suddenly of a heart attack in 1976.

Most Referenced Works

Personal Awards

1976 Member Order of Australia For sevice to the Aboriginal community in the field of music.
Last amended 13 May 2009 11:04:40
Other mentions of "" in AustLit:
    X