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Colin Hay honoured with Billions Award for the iconic 'Down Under’

Media Published Friday 18 November 2022
Colin Hay receives his award at APRA AMCOS. (Photo by Georgia Ginnivan @georgiaginnivan)

'Down Under' spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1983.

Forty years on, Luude's version went to #1 in NZ, #2 in Australia and reached #1 on Spotify’s Viral Global Chart.

"That’s what the song is, it’s about love and celebration in a very true way," said Hay.

Songwriter Colin Hay was honoured with APRA AMCOS’ Billions Award for ‘Down Under’, an iconic hit that continues to top the charts 40 years since its release.

The award is given to APRA AMCOS songwriter members and their publishers in recognition of a song surpassing one billion streams, and was presented to Hay and Sony Music Publishing yesterday at the music rights organisation's head office in Sydney. The Los Angeles-based Hay is currently touring Australia, with final shows in Sydney and Thirroul this weekend.

Co-written with Men At Work guitarist Ron Strykert, the song was the second official single from the band’s debut album Business as Usual. ‘Down Under’ reached #1 in Australia in 1981 and the following year topped the charts in New Zealand, Canada, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland and Italy before a triumphant four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1983 and selling two million copies in the US.

Forty years on, ‘Down Under’ rocketed to the top of the charts again in 2022 with Perth producer/DJ Luude’s festival-ready version featuring new vocals by Hay. The song spent 9 weeks at # 1 on the New Zealand charts and reached #1 on Spotify’s Viral Global Chart. It reached #2 on the ARIA Singles chart and is certified Double Platinum, and spent 29 weeks on the UK chart, peaking at #5. ‘Down Under’ was #9 on the APRA AMCOS annual chart of Top 50 Australian songs streamed in Australia.

‘Down Under’ soundtracks the new global Tourism Australia campaign with a re-imagined version by north-east Arnhem Land band King Stingray singing in Yolngu Matha and English.

Colin received the Distinguished Services Award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music at the Global APRA Music Awards, held in Los Angeles in 2020. He was presented with the honour by pop superstar Sia, who said of her ‘Uncle Collie’, “You’re my favourite singer.”

In a Q&A with APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston, Hay said about writing the song, “I think that more than anything, the way that the song felt was that I had this deep love for this country, but not in a flag waving way, in a very deep spiritual way. I didn’t quite understand what it was, but I can still feel it, I can’t often put it into words—I love the place so much. That’s what the song is, it’s about love and celebration in a very true way.”

About the song’s interpretations by Luude and King Stingray, “The young lad Luude brought it to life, it’s just one of those songs—it’s in people’s consciousness.

“The young band King Stingray who have done it—I couldn’t think of a better way to update the song, than to have traditional lyrics from First Nations people who can interpret the song and go ‘OK, this is what it means to me’ and bring it forward to today and further the cause of inclusion. Anything you can do to further the cause, I’m happy to be part of it.”

“This award is very special because it honours the songwriter, and ultimately, the connection of a song on a global scale. ‘Down Under’ is about heart and home, it connects with people in a very fundamental way, and is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago,” said Ormston.

“Our 1,000,000,000 List highlights the enormous potential of Australia and New Zealand’s songwriters and the opportunity for both countries to become global music powerhouses,” said Ormston.

Damian Trotter, Managing Director, Sony Music Publishing Australia said: “It goes without saying what a major role Men At work and ‘Down Under’ in particular have played in not only the musical but also the broader Australian cultural context of Australian life for over 40 years now.

“Apart from its commercial success (evidenced today with this Billion streams award and spearheading the latest global Tourism Australia campaign) ‘Down Under will always be one of the most important songs to have been written about Australia. On the surface it’s a catchy, hilarious song depicting the true Aussie larrikin spirit but it’s genius is that beneath the surface, it is also a sharp commentary on both the best and some of the darker aspects of our cultural identity wrapped up in a way that few have ever managed to capture … let alone in three and a half minutes!

“Colin's music as part of both Men at Work and throughout his more extensive solo work, has touched so many lives and we are all at Sony Music Publishing extremely proud to be a part of his brilliant career."

The 1,000,000,000 List takes into account streaming numbers from all major services Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. It is the first award of its kind to recognise a songwriter’s achievement.

Luude - Down Under (Feat. Colin Hay)

King Stingray - Down Under (Under One Sun)