Jon English emigrated to Australia from Essex, England, with his family in the 1960s. He launched his career with a garage band of schoolmates while still attending Cabramatta High School in Sydney.
In 1972, he leapt from virtual obscurity when he joined the Australian stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He won the part of Judas over 2,000 other hopefuls and completed three separate stints in the role – In 1972, 1975 and 1978. He also appeared on the Original Cast album of 1972.
Jon performed with the studio band Duck on the soundtrack to the rock opera Ned Kelly and released his debut album, Wine Dark Sea.
His next album, It’s All a Game, yielded his first hit single – a cover version of the Bob Seger song Turn the Page – which peaked at #7 in Australia in February 1975.
He then joined a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar and released his third album, Hollywood Seven.
Minutes to Midnight followed, and Jon toured with his recently formed Jon English Band.
His next album, Words Are Not Enough, scored hits with the title song, which peaked at #5 in July 1978 and Nights in Paradise, which reached #21 in October.
With a voice that sounded as if it was nurtured on a daily diet of gravel and ground glass, Jon English appealed to a surprising cross-section of people but never appeared to tailor or compromise his sound to suit any particular audience.
In 1978, English starred in the Australian television mini-series Against The Wind as Jonathan Garrett – a transported convict freshly arrived in Sydney.
He also composed, produced, and recorded the soundtrack album with Mario Millo, and the theme to the series – Six Ribbons – was released as a single and became the best-selling male pop single in Australia in 1979, peaking at #5 in January.
He won Best New Talent at the 1979 Logie Awards and Against The Wind later became a hit TV series in both Scandinavia and the UK.
A compilation album, English History, peaked at #4 in August 1979, and Jon toured Australia and overseas with his new band, Baxter Funt. Two albums followed: Calm Before The Storm (1980) and Inroads (1981). He then undertook a sold-out tour of Scandinavia where the soundtrack to Against The Wind had sold over 100,000 copies.
A live double album, Beating the Boards, was released in 1982, followed by Jokers and Queens – a mini-album with Marcia Hines.
Some People (1983) was his next solo outing, and a duet with Renee Geyer, Every Beat of My Heart, was released in 1984.
In the same year, English joined the stage production The Pirates of Penzance as the Pirate King. Several stage musicals followed over the next decade, including Rasputin (1987), The Mikado, and HMS Pinafore. Several singles were released during this time, as was the album Dark Horses (1987).
In 1990, English released another album, Always the Busker. An adaptation of Homer’s Iliad was released by WEA in the same year under the title of Paris – a collaboration between English and producer David McKay that won the 1990 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Award for Best Original Soundtrack or Cast Recording.
In 1993, English performed in the popular Australian comedy TV series All Together Now as Bobby Rivers, a washed-up rock relic. All Together Now was released as a single, as was the Best of Jon English 20th Anniversary Album in the same year.
Jon English died on 10th March 2016 from complications following surgery for an aortic aneurysm that doctors ‘stumbled across’ after he broke his ribs. He was just 66.