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Bones Hillman, Midnight Oil's 'bassist with the beautiful voice', dies aged 62

The Guardian logo The Guardian 08/11/2020 Elias Visontay
a man holding a microphone: Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Rex/Shutterstock © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Rex/Shutterstock

Midnight Oil’s bassist and backing vocalist Bones Hillman has died at the age of 62.

The New Zealand-born Hillman died at his home in Milwaukee on Saturday of cancer.

His fellow band members said they were “grieving the loss of our brother”. “He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade,” they said in a statement.

Peter Garrett et al. standing next to a man: Bones Hillman, Rob Hirst, Peter Garrett, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey announce Midnight Oil’s world tour. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Bones Hillman, Rob Hirst, Peter Garrett, Jim Moginie and Martin Rotsey announce Midnight Oil’s world tour. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

“Bones joined Midnight Oil way back in 1987 after stints in various Kiwi bands, most notably, The Swingers. He played and sang on every Midnight Oil recording since Blue Sky Mining and we did thousands of gigs together.

“We will deeply miss our dear friend and companion and we send our sincerest sympathies to Denise, who has been a tower of strength for him.

“Haere rā Bonesy from Jim, Martin, Peter & Rob.”

a man holding a microphone: Bones Hillman on stage with Midnight Oil in London in 2017. The bassist and backing singer has died at the age of 62. © Photograph: Andrew Fosker/Rex/Shutterstock Bones Hillman on stage with Midnight Oil in London in 2017. The bassist and backing singer has died at the age of 62.

Born Wayne Stevens in 1958, the bassist joined Midnight Oil in 1987, after playing with several New Zealand outfits, including the Masochists. When he joined the Oils to replace Peter Gifford, he had already been living in Australia, moving there with the Swingers seven years earlier.

Related: Midnight Oil: The Makarrata Project review – a chorus of anger over stolen land

Hillman joined before the release of Diesel and Dust, the band’s sixth studio album, which included Beds are Burning, one of the group’s most notable tracks.

After Midnight Oil temporarily disbanded in 2002 when the lead singer and environmentalist, Peter Garrett, pursued a career in politics, Hillman moved with his family to Nashville in 2007 for its music scene. He lived in the US during the band’s hiatus, and was part of its reunion tour in 2017.

Hillman also recorded Midnight Oil’s latest album, The Makarrata Project, which was released last month.

In October the Sydney Peace Foundation announced it would award the gold medal for human rights to the band for their “commitment to the pursuit of human rights over an extended period ... with a powerful, far-reaching impact”.

It is unclear how long Hillman had cancer.

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