Played flute, sax in hits for Australian band
Musician and actor Greg Ham, best known as a key member of the megaselling 1980s Australian group Men at Work, was found dead on April 19 in his home in a suburb of Melbourne. He was 58.
According to reports from Australian media, Ham was discovered by two friends, who became worried after having not heard from him for the past week. His cause of death has yet to be determined.
Ham’s most well-known contributions to Men at Work were arguably the memorable flute parts to “Down Under” and the saxophone solo in “Who Can It Be Now,” both of which were chart-toppers in the U.S. and elsewhere during the early ’80s. Though best known for his wind-instrument work, Ham also played synthesizer, organ and piano for the band.
Born and raised around Melbourne, Ham joined Men at Work, led by singer-guitarist Colin Hay, in 1979, and the band was signed to Columbia Records in 1981. Single “Who Can It Be Now” reached the top of the Australian singles chart in the summer of that year, eventually spreading to the U.S. and reaching the chart summit there a little over a year later.
Debut LP “Business as Usual” arrived in 1982 and spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. album chart, earning the group a best new artist Grammy. Single “Down Under” became the band’s second chart-topping single in the U.S. and remains its most well-known song.
Sophomore record “Cargo” followed in 1983, reaching No. 3 on the U.S. album chart, while album track “Overkill” hit the same mark on the singles chart. After several lineup changes, leaving Ham and Hay as the remaining core of the band, the group released “Two Hearts” in 1985 to little chart success. Ham left the band after a subsequent tour, and the group folded in 1986.
Ham and Hay reunited as Men at Work in 1996 for a series of tours over the next several years and performed at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Ham had a recurring role on Australian TV series “While You’re Down There” in 1986 and landed a small part in 1987 film “Pandemonium.” In recent years, he had worked as a music teacher.