POP GO THE 1970’s – Part 2- COLLEEN HEWETT

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Day By Day (S Schwartz) 1971 and Dreaming My Dreams With You (A Reynolds) – Colleen Hewett 1980

Colleen Hewett (1950) grew up in Bendigo (Vic), and attended the local Catholic College there as well as the Pascoe Vale Girls School (Melb), she was an indifferent student and was performing live from the age of fourteen. Below Form 2B PVGS 1962, Colleen is second from the left in the second row from the front.

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Her maternal grandmother Marjorie Duguid, was of African -American descent and her great grandfather, Edward Rollins was originally from Guyana, and came to Australia via the USA as a champion prizefighter. The Hewett family were musical and both Colleen and her older sister Glenys became featured singers with the local band the Esquires, she turned professional in 1967 at the age of seventeen and joined the Creations who were the backing band for such local artists as Billy Adams and Buddy England. Below L-R Colleen and sister Glenys with the Laurie Allen Revue, Marjorie Duguid, Edward Rollins.

Between 1967-68 Colleen and her sister Glenys toured with the Laurie Allen Revue and then Ian Saxon and the Sound but in 1970 she went solo, gained significant exposure on Bandstand, and signed with Festival Records in 1971, Colleen would be crowned the Go-Set Queen of Pop in 1972-73, and Johnny Farnham would be her King of Pop in both of those years, they would become close friends.

Her breakthrough top 40 hit was the Leon Russell/Delaney and Bramlett composition Superstarwhich had been a featured song on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour where Rita Coolidge sang this song. Johnny Young encouraged Colleen to record the song and she took it to #32 in June 1971.

Great orchestration, killer guitar breaks, and Colleens powerful vocals, The Carpenters version, and the original by Bonnie Bramlett have their fans, but Colleen’s was the definitive power pop version of the song

The gospel sound of African-American church choirs was finding its way into popular music in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, such songs as Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkin Singers in 1969 was a huge hit and influenced others to incorporate the spiritual cadences of church choirs into decidedly more secular musical forms – God Bless The Child (Blood, Sweat and Tears,1969), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel, 1970), My Sweet Lord (George Harrison, 1970), Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) (Melanie,1970) which also featured the Edwin Hawkins Singers; followed soon after by the soundtrack for Godspell.Below L-R Colleen and Danny Finlay, Godspell Australian Cast Poster, 45rpm Record.

In 1970 Colleen married Danny Finlay, former drummer with MPD Ltd, and they would have three children, in 1971 she joined the cast of the “Jesus-rock musical” Godspell. Her powerfully, soulful vocals were soon revealed in live performances, she recorded a vibrant version of the pivotal song in the show, Day By Day, for inclusion in the cast album of the show, the song was written by Stephen Schwartz who would also write the musicals Pippin and Wicked in the future.

The album was however generally pedestrian and unimaginative, a sparse collection of arrangements of gospel songs, and while Colleen’s rendition of Day By Day was impressive, the song itself was problematical, as it owed a considerable debt to George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, which the Chiffons had successfully claimed owed a significant debt to their hit song He’s So Fine.

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Ian Meldrum (above) convinced Colleen to re-record the soft rock ballad with a new arrangement that combined the song with another tune from the show, Prepare Ye the Way Of the Lord, so avoiding any direct connection to Harrison’s song and any subsequent copyright infringement issues.

Other live /mimed versions of this song are either poorly produced and very murky or banned from use by Lewis Carroll productions, but this stereo version is the best

Meldrum lavished his creative energy on the production and included full orchestral backing and the massed voices of the Australian Boys choir in support of Hewett’s soaring and impactful vocals on a record that came in at just under six minutes.

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The song was a #2 hit nationally and stayed on the charts for 24 weeks; and Colleen followed up with her cover of the Beatles song Carry That Weight from their Abbey Road album (1969), which charted #29 nationally. Her eponymous debut album also did well, climbing to #1 and occupying the charts for 28 weeks, and subsequent albums M’Lady (#44 in ’74) and Colleen (#48 in ’83) were modest charters.

Over the next eight years from 1971-79 success on the singles charts eluded Hewett, however she performed convincingly in musicals – Tommy, Pippin– and in such local TV series as Matlock Police, The Box and Homicide, and in future years she returned to the stage in roles in Shout, Chicago and The Boy From Oz.  

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In 1980 she returned to the top five with a former C&W hit for Waylon Jennings with Dreaming My Dreams With You, written by American songwriter/producer Allen Reynolds, who also penned Five O’Clock World for the Vogues, the theme song for the Drew Carey Show, and produced records for Crystal Gayle, Don Williams and Emmylou Harris. This slow ballad with a waltz-like tempo, was beautifully performed by Hewett and it charted at #2 nationally and was the 14th biggest-selling record of the year.

One of Colleen’s best songs, she was by now a vereran of the live musical scene, and a consummate performer.

In 1983 Colleen would provide lead vocals for the Liberal Party’s theme song  as part of their Federal election campaign, with the song We’re not Waiting for the World, but it was to no avail as the incumbent Fraser government was swept away in a Bob Hawke-inspired Labor landslide.

By 1980 Hewett, Finlay, and John Farnham (together above laft) were in serious financial difficulties when their joint restaurant venue Backstage in Spring St (Melb) collapsed, with trade debts and unpaid taxes of more than a million dollars. Hewett and Finlay would divorce in 1980, and Colleen would remarry and endure violence and abuse from her second husband, a French national, until they too were divorced. In 2002 Colleen would marry for the third time to Melbourne businessman Ian Aiken (together above right), they would live together primarily in Fiji, until their divorce in 2006.

Colleen appears on the heritage music circuit here in Australia, and her performances at the annual Go!! Show Gold Spectaculars nationally, are much-anticipated. Over a diverse career Colleen has released no less than eleven singles of which five were top 30 including two top five hits, three albums of which two were also top 10, her contribution to cast recordings of stage musicals was also noteworthy, it would now seem to be time Colleen Hewett was given favourable consideration for induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame.  

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