20 Apr 2012

No police suspicions over Greg Ham's death

9:32 pm on 20 April 2012

Australian police say there was nothing suspicious about the death of former Men At Work band member Greg Ham.

The 58-year-old's body was found in his home in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton North when friends went to check on him on Thursday.

He was the band's flautist, saxophonist and keyboard player.

Detective Inspector John Potter would not comment on suggestions that drugs were linked to Ham's death, but he says there was nothing sinister.

A post-mortem is being carried out.

In an interview with the ABC on Friday, Men At Work frontman Colin Hay said Ham had been "hit very hard" by a court's ruling that the band plagiarised the distinctive flute riff in their worldwide hit Down Under.

Riff was ripped off - court ruling

Ham, who joined the band in 1979, played the riff which a court ruled had been lifted from Kookaburra, a song which was written in 1934 by Australian schoolteacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition.

Men At Work's record label, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Hay and Ron Strykert, were ordered to pay 5% of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.

"It hit him very hard and I think it was ultimately a really sad thing because that's not how he's going to be remembered at all," says Hay.

Two bars of Kookaburra crept unconsciously into Down Under during recording, and Hay said the idea that the band were plagiarists was "ridiculous".

"But as far as (Ham) was concerned, he did feel, the times that I spoke to him, he was obviously upset about it and felt responsible for playing the line, even though it was innocuous," he said.

After the ruling, Ham told friends he would never see another cent out of the song again.

He sold his historic North Carlton home last year and moved to a more modest house in the same suburb.

Friend and local pharmacist David Nolte, who discovered his body, says Ham felt responsible for the copyright controversy.

"He was a very sensitive person. It really cut him apart," he said.