Thirteen John Farnham Songs You Should Know

24 July 2023 | 11:13 am | Stephen Green

Ahead of tonights Channel 7 airing of Finding The Voice: The John Farnham Story, we delve into thirteen songs that truly capture the magic of Australia's greatest vocalist.

John Farnham

John Farnham (Supplied)

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You’re The Voice

We need to get this one out the way up front. Without doubt, You’re The Voice is John Farnham’s signature tune and for good reason. It’s the song that led him out of the wilderness and cemented its album Whispering Jack as one of the greatest ever. The album is currently 24 times platinum, indicating well over 1.5 million copies sold. More importantly though, this is the track that stirs emotion in every Aussie. Whether it’s Fire Fight Australia where it stole the show or at the Sydney Olympics party, whenever those bagpipes start, we dare you not to feel the feels. We have the chance to turn the pages over…..

Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)

John would probably cringe that we’ve added this in second, but the Farnham story has a beginning and this was it for John. It was 1967 and at the time he was Johnny Farnham. The late 60s were big for ‘Jack’ who was a teen hearthrob. He also had a number one hit with Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, but it was Sadie that was the #1 highest selling Australian single of the decade. Farnham was crowned Australia’s King of Pop five years running, cementing the pop star into the hearts of Australians for the first time.

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The 70s weren’t kind to Farnham. With his star no longer on the rise, the hits dried up and the later part of the decade saw the singer back in cabaret clubs performing to small audiences. The 80s opened with the Uncovered album which put Farnham back in the top ten for the first time in seven years with this blistering cover of The Beatles hit. While it didn’t fully resurrect his career, it proved to Australia just what a set of pipes he had and set the path for what was to come later in the 80s. The perfect cover for The Midday Show, Hey Hey It’s Saturday and other variety TV, the song became a signature tune for Farnham over the coming decades with a number of re-releases, including a killer live version in 1992 from the Full House album.

Playing To Win (The Little River Band)

After Uncovered put Farnham back on the map, he joined The Little River Band in the early 80s, controversially replacing Glenn Shorrock. It wasn’t a commercially popular period for the band, but it resulted in Playing To Win. The song was initially unsuccessful, not even cracking the top 50, but over the years, mainly thanks to its use in sporting fixtures and TV broadcasts, it has become an Aussie classic. Never fear though, because it wasn’t long before Farnham would be solo again.

Pressure Down

So fast forward to Whispering Jack and the second coming of John Farnham was complete. As we covered earlier, You’re The Voice exploded into the national consciousness and was followed up by this 80s classic, Pressure Down. Despite most of the country already having a copy of Whispering Jack on their shelf, this managed a top five placing. How to describe it? We’ll leave it to this YouTube commenter: “The eighties had this hard to describe feeling. It was like magic mixed with the feeling of a lounge room . The world felt magic.”

A Touch Of Paradise

Ok so it might seem like we’re labouring on Whispering Jack a little, but you can’t begrudge some extra attention to a record this big. The third single was Touch Of Paradise, a song written by Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson (of Eagle Rock fame). This was the “third single ballad” that everyone was waiting for. There’s something about this song that just makes you feel relaxed as soon as the opening bars kick off.

Age of Reason

How do you follow up the biggest album in Australian history? With this banger, Age of Reason. The album (of the same name) was another #1 smash, hitting eleven times platinum and proving that John’s success wasn’t just a one-off.

Two Strong Hearts

The train just kept rolling down the track with the second single from Age of Reason, Two Strong Hearts. Another top 10 hit, this Track is one of his most enduring hits to this day.

That’s Freedom

The 90s rolled around and Farnham’s next album Chain Reaction was another massive success. The album was a step down from the success of the previous two, going eight times platinum, but seriously…. what other artist could you call an eight times platinum album a step down in success? The lead single That’s Freedom was another top ten cut.

Burn For You

Keeping the formula alive, the ‘third single ballad’ on Chain Reaction was Burn For You, which quickly became another signature for Farnesy. It’s hard to pick another Australian voice with the power and quality and this one proves it.

Have A Little Faith (In Us)

After Chain Reaction, Farnham went into the massive arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and released a successful collaboration with Jimmy Barnes, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby which returned him to the top five, but speed wobbles started with 1993’s Then Again… album. It was a four times platinum record, but didn’t have the same big hits of previous releases (despite some strong cuts in Angels and Seemed Like A Good Idea). The label decided doubled down on the next set Romeo’s Heart, with its lead single Have A Little Faith (In Us) sending Farnham back to the top five, peaking at #3. Romeo’s Heart went on to match its predecessor with four platinum plaques on the wall.

Every Time You Cry (With Human Nature)

The label decided it was time to take stock on Farnham’s amazing run, releasing the Anthology series in 1997. The three volumes including one of the big hits, one of live cuts and one rarities for the superfans. The set included this brand new song with vocal group Human Nature which has gone on to be one of Farnham’s most popular tracks and gave him his final visit to the ARIA top forty. Holding a hand out across the generations, the song did a great job of introducing Farnham to a younger audience who’s Mums up until that point would have been more likely to be the ones lining up for an autograph.

The Last Time

It wasn’t a big hit, but this one is memorable as the title track from Farnham’s 2002 album The Last Time. It was announced at the time that the tour off the back of it would be Farnham’s last large-scale arena tour. This came back to bite him in the ass as people continually reminded him for two more decades every time he announced a show that he said he was retiring. He didn’t ACTUALLY say he wouldn’t do shows or that he was retiring, but in the same way the reserve bank governor didn’t PROMISE interest rates wouldn’t rise, it continue to come back as the butt of jokes. But fans didn’t care. If there was a chance to see Australia’s greatest ever singer ply his craft, why wouldn’t you take the opportunity?

Farnham’s amazing career spanned another two albums (I Remember When I Was Young and Jack) as well as tours with Olivia Newton-John and Tom Jones. His career has spanned twenty-one studio albums, seven live albums, seventeen compilations, thirteen live DVDs and no less than twenty top ten singles.

It’s unknown whether we’ll ever see an artist beat this unbelievable run, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a more iconic Australian musician capture the hearts of a nation like John Farnham.