Bones Hillman, longtime bass player with seminal Australian rock outfit Midnight Oil, died Saturday (Nov. 9) at his home in Milwaukee after a battle with cancer. He was 62.
“We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman,” reads a statement from Midnight Oil. “He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade.”
Born Wayne Stevens in Auckland, New Zealand, the rocker had a trans-Tasman hit in 1981 with The Swingers’ infectious song “Counting The Beat,” and he appeared in Gillian Armstrong’s music comedy film from 1982, Starstruck.
Later, Hillman would step onto the biggest stages of them all when he joined Midnight Oil in 1987, replacing Peter Gifford. With Hillman in the lineup, The Oils etched their name in the history books.
He took his place on stage with his bandmates in Sydney in 2006 when The Oils were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, again in 2009 when the rockers reunited for the Sound Relief fundraiser at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and in 2018, when the group was feted with the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.
And when Peter Garrett and Co. got the band back together for The Great Circle 2017 World Tour, Hillman took his place at front of stage.
Hillman and Midnight Oil “did thousands of gigs together,” reads the band’s statement.
The Kiwi musician played on 1990’s Blue Sky Mining, which peaked at No. 1 on Australia’s albums chart, and five subsequent studio albums including the latest release The Makarrata Project.
He passed away Saturday Nov. 9, the same day the ARIA Albums Chart was published, featuring The Makarrata Project as the new No. 1.
Tributes poured in for the late artist. “An incredible loss. Just yesterday Midnight Oil topped the ARIA albums chart. Our thoughts are with his families, friends and band mates,” reads a statement from ARIA.
Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe wrote, “R.I.P Bones Hillman. What a grand chap he was. Sad sad news.”
Midnight Oil “will deeply miss our dear friend and companion and we send our sincerest sympathies to Denise, who has been a tower of strength for him,” say Hillman’s surviving bandmates. “Haere rā Bonesy from Jim, Martin, Peter & Rob.”