Iconic Australian musician Max Merritt has passed away at the age of 79, his management have confirmed.
The news was broken on Friday by Merritt’s manager and close friend Wal Bishop, who issued a statement confirming his passing.
“Max had been on dialysis three days every week since he fell ill back in 2007,” Bishop explained. “He really put up a great fight and will be sadly missed by all that knew and loved him.”
Born in New Zealand in 1941, Merritt formed The Meteors at age 15, and released their debut single, “Get a Haircut”, in 1958.
Moving to Sydney in 1964, the group continued to achieve widespread success, including a chart hit with a cover of “Hey, Western Union Man” in 1969, while a move to England preceded the release of their most famous song, “Slipping Away”, which peaked at number two in Australia (and number five in their native New Zealand) in 1975.
Relocating to the US in the late ’70s, Merritt didn’t quite achieve the same chart success as his earlier work had, though a return to Australia in the late ’90s brought with it a renewed interest in his work, and occasional reformations of The Meteors.
In 2007, it was announced that Merritt had been hospitalised with kidney failure, resulting in the revelation he had been diagnosed with Goodpastures Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease which sees the kidney and lungs mistakenly attacked by antibodies.
This news resulted in the Concert for Max, which saw the likes of Ross Wilson, Normie Rowe, Daryl Braithwaite, and more perform as part of a benefit gig to raise money to aid Merritt with his illness.
One year later, Merritt was formally inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame by veteran music journalist Glenn A. Baker. “It’s fabulous. I’m thrilled that I was even thought of,” Max said at the time. “It’s quite a privilege and I’m with good company, some mighty artists and I feel really good about it.”
Though Merritt did not perform again, Bishop noted that he maintained his creative edge until the very end.
“Max had been unable to perform live over the past 13 years but, when he felt up to it, would go into the studio to record,” he explained. “He even shot a video to go with the tracks, it’s a shame he won’t be around to see it.”