The Wiggles are probably the band least expected to be indirectly responsible for killing two people. As the celebrity guests on the quiz show Spick and Specks, host Adam Hill posed a question perfect for children entertainers, “What children’s song is contained in the song ‘Down Under’?” Despite being right in their wheelhouse, the group failed to come up with the correct answer, “Kookaburra.” What should have been, at most, a missed round of trivia spiraled into a strangely dark saga.
One of the people watching that night was the managing director of Larrikin Music, Norman Lurie. In 1990, he bought the rights to the folk song for $6,100. Written by humble school teacher Marion Sinclair, “Kookaburra” was conceived in a Church choir as a way to raise funds for a girls’ jamboree. Ignoring the wholesome origin, Lurie demanded Men At Work pay him millions in royalties.
Released in 1981, “Down Under” was an international smash, topping charts in multiple countries. After a contentious legal battle, the judge eventually ruled the plagiarized flute solo warranted a $100,000 penalty. Frontman Colin Hay insists the stress of the case contributed to his father’s death. Tragically, the flautist Greg Ham slipped into a cycle of depression and heroin after blaming himself for the whole debacle. At 58, Ham died from either a heart attack or possible overdose.