12 Oct 2015

Jenny Morris may never sing again

2:08 pm on 12 October 2015

New Zealand-born singer Jenny Morris has revealed that she will not perform again due to a rare neurological condition affecting her voice.

The singer of 1980s hits such as Break In The Weather and You I Know has been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, which causes involuntary spasms in the larynx.

"I sound like a 50-year-old crone who's been smoking three packs a day for 30 years, and not in a sexy way," she told the ABC.

"I have no idea whether I will sing again. At this point, I can't see that I would want to charge people to hear me sing."

Jenny Morris performing at the "farmhand" relief concert at the Superdome in Sydney, October 26, 2002. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Jenny Morris performing at the "Farmhand" relief concert in Sydney, 2002 Photo: AAP

Morris first found success with New Zealand band The Crocodiles, before relocating to Australia in the early 1980s and forming a trio called QED.

After recording and touring with INXS as a backing singer, she established a successful solo career with hits such as Break in the Weather and She Has to Be Loved.

About 10 years ago, she began noticing that her singing voice was not performing the way she wanted it to.

When her speaking voice also started to sound "croaky", she sought medical help.

Morris said the diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia was "a terrible loss" for someone who has been singing all her life.

"I think having issues with my voice is not a reason to shy away from the world," she said.

"It's just a glitch and it's not a good enough reason not to do what you're passionate about.

Although speech therapy brought about some relief, she decided that a performance at Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo would be her last.

Jenny Morris

Jenny Morris Photo: AAP

Despite the problem with her speaking voice, Morris continues to chair the board of the Australasian Performing Rights Association APRA, which collects royalties on behalf of songwriters.

She is also co-founder of an annual event called The Art of Music which brings together some of Australia's top artists and musicians to raise money for music therapy.

Artists are asked to create a new work based on a favourite piece of music, and the works are auctioned at a charity gala for music therapy program Nordoff-Robbins, based at the University of Western Sydney.

The list of people who have taken part is a virtual who's who of the creative industries, including musicians Nick Cave, Neil Finn and Megan Washington, and artists Nicholas Harding, Michael Leunig, Wendy Sharpe and Ben Quilty.

The Art of Music event has now been running for 10 years and has raised more than $1 million for Nordoff-Robbins.

"There have been times when this organisation has really struggled for funding, and without Morris and the Art of Music concept, we wouldn't be where we are today," Nordoff-Robbins chief executive Belinda Leonard said.

Nordoff-Robbins provides music therapy for disadvantaged people with conditions ranging from dementia to autism "and everything in between", she said.