Greg Ham of Men At Work, originator of the flute riff in "Down Under," found dead
Greg Ham might not be a household name, but he has a unique claim to fame: He's responsible for perhaps the most instantly recognizable flute riff in rock history. As a member of the early '80s Australian new wave band Men At Work, Ham stood out most prominently in 1981's No. 1 hit single "Down Under," which features his lively flute-playing in the song's hook. Ham, who was found dead Thursday at his home in Melbourne, was distressed in recent years after a court ruled in 2010 that "Down Under" had lifted "a substantial part" of the folk tune "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree." While "Down Under" was written by band members Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, Ham took the case personally—his flute riff most resembles "Kookaburra"—believing it hurt his reputation. "It has destroyed so much of my song," he said to Australian newspaper The Age at the time. ''It will be the way the song is remembered and I hate that.''
The cause of death is unknown, though The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Ham, a heroin addict, had recently begun using again after the "Kookaburra" trial, which, according to a friend, "had undone him." The 58-year-old Ham was found in the house he recently moved into, after selling a more opulent property that he purchased at the time of Men At Work's greatest popularity. [via Billboard]