Airdate: Bloodlines: Jimmy Little And Family

ABC1 will replay a special Message Stick episode dedicated to Jimmy Little, Australia’s first Indigenous recording star, who died earlier this week.

Jimmy Little was Australia’s first Aboriginal recording star with his worldwide 1960s hit song Royal Telephone. Jimmy was born into a musical family on the banks of the Murray River, and although one of nature’s gentlemen, from an early age he had a steely resolve to succeed. In the early 60s Jimmy even outsold the Beatles in Australia and became one of the first Indigenous Australians to break through on radio and television.

Frances, his daughter, is an historian, writer, filmmaker, and activist. And Jimmy’s grandson, James Henry, has inherited the full complement of musical genes. According to James “my earliest memory of performing would’ve been when my grandfather taught me how to play You are My Sunshine, and then I’d play that sometimes up on stage with him. When my grandfather would be playing in a band with all my uncles and they would have jam sessions together, seeing that musical camaraderie kind of made me feel like I wanted a bit of that in my life as I got older.”

Nothing demonstrates the power of bloodline more than the extraordinary story of Jimmy’s stolen generation niece. Jimmy’s sister, Monica had a daughter who was taken as a baby and raised by a caring, white family. Decades later and oblivious to her ancestry, soprano, composer and actor, Deborah Cheetham realised that her uncle was none other, than ‘The’ Jimmy Little.

Deborah has written Australia’s first Indigenous opera about the ‘Cummeragunja Walk-Off’ a protest against maltreatment, in which coincidently, Jimmy’s father played a role.

6pm Sunday, April 8 ABC1.

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