JOHN FARNHAM: FINDING THE VOICE

★★★

THE 'CHAIN REACTION' THAT MADE AN AUSSIE ICON

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris Dos Santos
9th May 2023

Australian musicians are a dying breed. Since the turn of the century, our singers have come from 'Australian Idol', 'The Voice' and 'The X Factor' with varying success levels, but even the "stars" we did get were over 10 years ago and trying to think of any new voice in the last 5 years is a challenge. John Farnham has always been a staple of the industry but has been out of the limelight of a couple years due to ongoing health battles. The new documentary 'John Farnham: Finding the Voice' takes us back to a booming Australian music industry and the discovery of that Voice!

John Farnham began his career very modestly, performing a song about 'Sadie the Cleaning Lady', which skyrocketed him to the title of teen heartthrob. After that success, his squeaky-clean image was tainted with his next career move, and it was through many rebrandings and genre jumps that Johnny became John and the biggest album by an Australian artist of all time, 'Whispering Jack', was birthed.

SWITCH: 'JOHN FARNHAM: FINDING THE VOICE' TRAILER

Like most musician-based documentaries, your enjoyment comes from your connection to the material. While the film is supported by the Farnham family, with John and his wife appearing in audio recordings only, their two sons have brief video interviews, and the documentary's narrator is his friend and manager Glenn Wheatley's wife, Gaynor. If you are a fan you will know the relationship these people had over the years, but as someone who is largely an outsider it felt strange hearing about Farnham's rise to fame from friends and business partners and not the man himself or his immediate family members.

For myself, Farnham's relevancy comes from my mum so any kind of nostalgia is linked to her listening to his music growing up. I was not alive when Farnham was at his peak, and the documentary is truly for those who were there during that time, who remember these people, the concerts and the music. If you're not in that demographic this isn't trying to be the one-stop guide to the story of John Farnham; it's friends catching up and telling old stories, which works better if you were a part of the experience.

The documentary is truly for those who were there during that time, who remember these people, the concerts and the music.

While the film understandably has interviews from Australian musicians like Jimmy Barnes, Daryl Braithwaite and even the late Olivia Newtown-John, it also feels the need to include international talent like Robbie Williams and Celine Dion, which considering for most the film we are with friends with the talent felt very strange and don't seem to have a very strong connection to Farnham. These are also so brief in the film's runtime, and Dion's interview especially taken out of context could literally be about any piece of music, making its oddness stand out even more.

'John Farnham: Finding the Voice' may not be the definitive look at the Aussie icon but it serves its purpose, taking those fans back to when Australia found its Voice!

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