Born 30 March 1930. Australian performer and television personality. Starting as a painter whose work was displayed in the National Gallery in London in the late Fifties, Harris turned to performing at London’s Downunder Club. He eventually rose to national fame thanks to several successful comedic records, starting with ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’, which made the Top 10 on the British charts for nine weeks in 1960. Subsequent singles include ‘Sun Arise’, ‘Johnny Day’, ‘Bluer Than Blue’, and ‘Two Little Boys’.
Following an appearance on the British children’s television program ‘Jigsaw’ Harris moved into a new career on television, hosting a variety of programs on the BBC, including ‘The Rolf Harris Show’, ‘It’s Rolf On Saturday OK?’, ‘Cartoon Time’, ‘Rolf’s Walkabout’ and the followup ‘Rolf’s Walkabout – 20 Years Down the Track’, ‘Animal Hospital’ and ‘Animal Hospital Week’. In 1977, Rolf Harris was awarded the OBE, and in 1989 was awarded the Order of Australia. In 2005, he painted an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
His 1962 record Sun Arise had a profound influence on the song The Dreaming, and Harris plays digeridu on that track. Harris again collaborated with Kate on her 2005 album Aerial, appearing on the tracks An Architect’s Dream and The Painter’s Link.
Harris’s career as a popular entertainer ended when he was convicted and imprisoned for sexual offences. In 2014, at the age of 84, he was jailed on twelve counts of indecent assault that took place between 1968 or 1969 and 1986, on four female victims then aged between eight and nineteen. As a result, he was stripped of many of the honours he had been awarded during his career, including the CBE. He was released from HMP Stafford in May 2017.
Harris died at his home in Bray, Berkshire, on 10 May 2023, aged 93.
Kate about Rolf Harris
I wish Rolf would do some more musical ventures. I think it’s fantastic. I mean, to be the discoverer of the wobble-board, and to be able to play the digeridu, and sing and write and draw. He’s a very talented man, he really is. And I think he’s very underestimated because of the areas he’s got into now. He’s a sort of top television personality. But it seems to me he’s got a great deal of musical talent, and for me this track is just magic. (Interview on BBC Radio, 1980)