Michael Hutchence - Singer/Songwriter
Created | Updated Mar 11, 2008
Michael Kelland John Hutchence was born on 22 January, 1960, to Kelland and Patricia Hutchence (née Kennedy, now known as Glassop), in Sydney, NSW, Australia. His mother used to be a film and television make-up artist. He had a brother, Rhett (born 1962); and a half-sister, Tina Burgess (born 1947), from his mother's first marriage.
Michael Hutchence was the lead singer with the Australian rock group INXS for 20 years, composing and recording his own material. He also had small parts in three films. His tragic death at the age of 37 remains a mystery which is still newsworthy years later, due to his notorious relationship with Paula Yates, the TV presenter wife of Bob Geldof, which ended like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Michael spent his childhood in Hong Kong, where he attended the King George V School in Kowloon. He began his career in the spotlight at the tender age of 8, appearing in a local toy store commercial. When his parents split up in 1976, Michael went to live in the USA with his mother. He hated the fast pace of life in the USA, so he moved back to Australia and lived with his father. He attended high school in Sydney, which is where he met fellow student Andrew Farriss, who performed in a local band called Doctor Dolphin. Michael was invited to sing with them. After graduation, three more musicians, Garry Beers and Kirk Pengilly, and Andrew's brother Tim, were recruited and they began touring pubs and clubs as The Farriss Brothers. They changed the name when they were signed for a recording contract, and INXS was born in 1979.
INXS released their first single, 'Simple Simon', in 1980. The band's third album, Shabooh Shoobah was released internationally in 1983. When INXS's fourth album, The Swing was released in 1984, it debuted at number one in Australia, and later went double platinum.
INXS's first UK release was 'What You Need' in 1986, though it only reached 51 in the charts. In 1988 their album Kick, which sold nine million copies, gave them the hit singles 'Need You Tonight'1; 'Never Tear Us Apart' and 'New Sensation'. Until Michael Hutchence's death INXS had released 14 albums and had worldwide sales of more than 30 million albums.
Hutchence met Australian singer Kylie Minogue at a party in Sydney, and they both ended relationships to be together. During an interview, Hutchence was asked what his favourite hobby was, and he answered:
Their relationship lasted three years, but it ended when she discovered he had cheated on her with Danish supermodel Helena Christensen. It amused him that Helena 'could just stand there looking great, while cameras were going off, and that's her life'. While he was with her, he said he had just worked out that there were alternate ways to living, instead of just doing last night every night.
Helena loves cream on everything, she also loves butter.
The relationship with Helena came to a messy end when a paparazzi pack-rat snapped Hutchence and Paula Yates, whom he had met on the Channel 4 show The Tube, leaving a hotel together. The photographer got punched by Hutchence but the picture made headline news and heralded the end of Yates' marriage. Hutchence's career and popularity suffered with the resulting bad press.
Paula Yates and Tiger Lily
When Paula Yates left her husband Bob Geldof for Hutchence, a bitter custody battle over their daughters commenced. Part of the divorce settlement between Geldof and Yates was a bizarre house switch, in which she and Hutchence moved into Geldof's house2, while Geldof and his girlfriend Jeanne Marine moved into Hutchence's smaller house close by.
In December 1995, Hutchence was prescribed Prozac3 by Dr J. Borham, a London medical practitioner, to treat a pre-existing depressive problem. Paula gave birth to Hutchence's only child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Yates-Hutchence, on 22 July, 1996. In an interview that he gave Swiss radio in June 1997, when asked about Tiger Lily, Hutchence said:
I miss the stupid things - a new front tooth growing, that kind of thing. You have to say, OK, this is what I do. And she (Tiger Lily) wants me, whether she knows it or not, to do what I want to do, because ultimately, it's for her. But it gets very difficult, [pause] you know, I haven't seen my baby for four months. I don't even know if she knows who I am any more. I envy those with nine-to-five jobs, so I could leave in the morning, then count the hours until I could get back to her.
Although living together, they were forced to spend a lot of time apart due to Hutchence playing concerts in Australia, and, with the on-going custody fight in the UK, Paula was torn between the two things she loved most. On 22 November, 1997, Hutchence was back in Sydney for rehearsals with INXS, who were just about to begin a major tour to celebrate the band's 20th anniversary. Paula informed him by telephone that she wouldn't be with him for Christmas as she couldn't bring her older children out to Australia (Geldof wouldn't allow it), and she wouldn't leave them. It was the last time they spoke.
The Unanswered Question - Suicide or Accident?
The 37-year-old singer's naked body was discovered hanging from the door handle of a room in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Sydney, just after noon on 22 November, 1997. A police spokesperson said there were no suspicious circumstances. Post mortem examinations showed that Hutchence died from suffocation caused by hanging. Blood analysis indicated the presence of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and other prescription drugs. There was no suicide note.
Five days before he died we had one of the best conversations we'd had since we broke up. He was happy, content. He was always so real and honest, it wasn't like he was going to pretend he was happy if he wasn't. I'm so glad we had that conversation.
- Helena Christensen
The night before he died, Hutchence shared dinner with his father Kelland. Michael was in good spirits, but had appeared very worried in regard to the outcome of a custody suit in London. Mr Hutchence Snr could offer no explanation as to why his son would take his own life. Other friends and ex-girlfriends4 confirmed that he adored his little daughter and wouldn't deliberately have left her. A London psychiatrist, Mark Collins, was consulted by Hutchence on 17 October, 1997, in regard to a minor depression being experienced by him. According to the psychiatrist's statement to the inquest, there was no hint of suicidal thinking by the deceased.
Paula Yates stated in a letter to the coroner that they had planned to get married on the Tahitian island of Bora Bora in January 1998. She insisted Hutchence would never have killed himself and believed he died accidentally, attempting autoerotic asphyxiation, in which choking to the point of unconsciousness heightens sexual pleasure.
The NSW state coroner, Mr DW Hand, recorded the death as suicide caused by depression. Hutchence's family were appalled by this conclusion, preferring to believe that his death was an accident.
Michael Hutchence's funeral took place on 27 November, 1997, at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. His casket was covered in a blanket of blue irises with one prominent tiger lily.
The funeral service was disrupted by a mentally-ill obsessive fan, Peter Hore, who shouted: This is how he did it, Paula! This is how he died!, then jumped off the balcony with a dog collar around his neck, attached to a four foot length of rope. Police hauled him off to a mental institution.
Michael, the loyal son and brother who always kept in touch;
Michael, the devoted partner, thrilled at being a father;
Michael, to those who knew him closely, the gentle and generous one;
Michael, who shared his time and talents with charities for the wellbeing of others;
Michael, who brought joy and delight to millions.
- The Very Reverend Boak Jobbins, Dean of Sydney.
The INXS song 'Never Tear Us Apart' was played to the 1800 mourners in attendance, and Psalm 23 'The Lord Is My Shepherd' was sung. After his cremation, his ashes were divided between Paula, his father, and his mother. Paula sewed the ashes into a small pillow and slept with it for the rest of her life.
INXS have toured with other singers since Hutchence's death, and have just been involved in a Pop Idol-style reality TV show to find a permanent replacement. Rock Star: INXS, the Foxtel reality show in which Australian rock band INXS searched for a new vocalist from 15 entrants, down to the final three. Canadian entertainer JD Fortune, who used to be homeless, won the competition.
JD has a slightly dangerous edge and will bring a sense of spontaneity to our live show. In addition, he has both the star quality we were looking for and is an inspired lyricist. I think he'll grow with us on all levels.
- INXS guitarist Tim Farriss.
Still Making the News
Hutchence's family blamed Paula for his death, and a custody application for Tiger Lily was commenced by Hutchence's mother Pat, who was also writing a biography entitled 'Just a Man' - the Real Life of Michael Hutchence, jointly with her daughter Tina. Paula threatened to sue if there was anything derogatory written about her.
Hutchence's self-titled solo album was finally released in 1999.
After Yates' death5 in 2000, temporary custody of the orphaned Tiger Lily was granted to Bob Geldof, Yates' ex-husband, followed by a custody battle with Tina Schorr (formerly Burgess), the child's aunt, who lives in the USA. The presiding judge decreed that Tiger Lily should live with the Geldofs and she was formerly adopted, although she retains her birth name.
In his will, published almost eight years after his death, Hutchence had intended to bequeath large sums to Amnesty International and Greenpeace with half of the rest of his estate going to his daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Yates-Hutchence. The remainder was to be split between Paula Yates, his mother, father, brother and half-sister. However, executors of the will declared in July 2005 that after the sale of his possessions, including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, guitars, artwork and property, and then the settlement of legal fees, there was nothing left.
You can leave a message on Michael Hutchence's Online Memorial.
Michael Hutchence's favourite author was Oscar Wilde.
He liked poetry, particularly by Ferlinghetti and Bukowski.
When booking into hotels, one of his favourite aliases was Fred Flintstone II.
After Hutchence's death, Bono wrote the song 'Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of' about him.