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Ronnie Burns

Best known for a handful of mid-'60s singles written for him by the Bee Gees, Australian singer Ronnie Burns carved out a successful career in Australia during that tumultuous decade and into the early '70s as a versatile singer of songs that ranged from Baroque pop to gentle protest ballads. Burns began his musical career as a member of the Beatles-inspired group the Flies. The band signed to RCA, released a handful of singles, and won a prestigious slot as opener for the Rolling Stones when that band toured Australia in 1965. Burns went solo not long after that to pursue a more pop-oriented musical direction than his bandmates desired. Spin Records signed him and released his first single, a cover of Peter, Paul and Mary's "Very Last Day' in 1966. After another record, a cover of Cliff Richard's "True, True Lovin,'" the label suggested Burns work with the Bee Gees. Burns wasn't too excited at the prospect, thinking the young Gibb brothers and their rocker hairstyles were a bad fit. After a listen to their demo tape, he realized right away that his misgivings were unfounded and their Beatlesque tunes were perfect for him. At their initial meeting, Burns recorded four songs written and produced by the Gibbs; they were released as the "Coalman"/"All the King's Horses" and "Exit Stage Right"/"In the Morning" singles in 1967. Plans to record an entire album were foiled by the Gibbs' departure to the U.K. Burns continued releasing singles throughout the rest of the '60s, recording songs written by the Twilight's Terry Britten and former pop singer Johnny Young. He also released a self-titled album that contained singles and other songs in 1967. Burns' biggest hit was the 1970 song "Smiley," an anti-war ballad inspired by the drafting of Australian pop star Normie Rowe. He followed it up in 1971 with "The Prophet," another song that had a strong dose of social commentary. That same year, Spin issued Burns' second album, Virgo. Burns began winding down his musical career soon after, and instead started a building company and hosted TV game shows. The pull of music was too strong to ignore, though, and a one-off gig in 1996 with former Zoot member Darryl Cotton became the band Burns, Cotton & Morris. After five years of playing with them, Burns retired from performing again and devoted himself to running his charity, the Appin Hall Children's Foundation. In 2019, RPM Records issued the first collection of his singles from the '60s, This Is Ronnie Burns.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo


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