Kiwi music legend Jenny Morris has been welcomed into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the 2018 APRA Silver Scroll Awards by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and with a heartwarming video tribute from her friends and family:
Ladyhawke performs the Jenny Morris hit 'Break in the Weather' at the Silver Srolls Award ceremony:
Born in Tokoroa and brought up in Hamilton, Jenny Morris achieved massive success - first in New Zealand as the singer for offbeat popsters The Crocodiles, then on both sides of the Tasman as a solo artist.
She was going to be a schoolteacher. Though she had sung with Auckland band How’s Your Father, she moved to Wellington in 1978 to take up a position teaching home economics, but the capital had other things in store. She met a group of female musicians and all-women band The Wide-Mouthed Frogs was formed.
The Frogs gained a fast following with a novel repertoire that ranged from Dinah Lee to Debbie Harry and an irreverent stage act. For some shows they employed a troupe of male go-go dancers dressed only in plastic rubbish bags.
Following a successful national tour and appearances on Radio With Pictures, Jenny and bass player Tina Matthews were wooed away from The Frogs by former Blerta guitarist and songwriter Fane Flaws to join his new band The Crocodiles, which also featured actor Bruno Lawrence on drums. Their debut album Tears was released in 1980, the title track becoming a Kiwi pop classic.
The Crocodiles moved to Australia in 1981 but broke up soon after, unable to repeat their New Zealand success. Jenny then began the process of establishing herself on the Australian scene. As she put it to Rip It Up magazine, during a return visit in 1984 as part of a Party Boys tour: “You’ve got to go back to scratch. It doesn’t matter how big you are here.”
She started a new group QED with Australian musicians Ian Belton and Rex Goh (ex-Air Supply). A single ‘Everywhere I Go’, written by Morris, glanced the Australian Top 20 in 1983. QED released an album the following year, which included remakes of several Crocodiles songs, but the group split soon after.
For the next year and a bit she toured and recorded with INXS, whose singer Michael Hutchence had been a flatmate in Sydney. INXS member Andrew Farriss produced a solo single for her in 1986, which was followed in 1987 by her debut album Body and Soul. With its biggest single ‘You I Know’ written by Neil Finn, it exceeded platinum sales in Australia and won her the ARIA Award for Best Female Performer.
Farriss produced her second album Shiver, released in 1989, which spawned several more successful singles including ‘Beggar On The Street Of Love’ (written by Paul Kelly) and Morris’s own songs ‘She’s Got To Be Loved’ and ‘Saved Me’. The album sold more than a quarter of a million copies in Australia.
In 1990 she toured Europe as opening act for Prince, after he had reportedly heard her single ‘Save Me’ in a club. In 1991 her third album Honeychild included the dance hit ‘Break in the Weather’.
In 1995 she became a writer director on the board of APRA, the Australasian Performing Rights Association.
Several more albums followed, culminating in an acoustic set Clear Blue In Stormy Skies, released in 2006 and including unplugged remakes of some of her earlier hits.
In 2015 she announced that she had been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a muscular disorder that effectively put an end to her singing career. But she has continued to remain a vital and vocal part of the Australasian music industry, becoming chair of APRA AMCOS, in 2013, a position she continues to hold.
She joins a pantheon of musicians in the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame that includes Shona Laing, Sharon O’Neill, Moana Maniopoto, Bic Runga, the Topp Twins, Bill Sevisi, Dave Dobbyn, Jordan Luck, Johnny Devlin, Douglas Lilburn, Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns, along with bands Supergroove, Straitjacket Fits, The Clean, The Exponents, Toy Love, Herbs, Hello Sailor, Dragon, The Fourmyula, Shihad and Ray Columbus and the Invaders.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shares her memories of discovering Jenny's music: