Bones Hillman, the long-time bass guitarist and backing vocalist for Midnight Oil died Saturday (November 7) after battling cancer. The band announced the news on their Facebook page; Hillman was 62.
Hillman, born Wayne Stevens, joined the Australian rock band in 1987 replacing Peter Gifford. The group were originally formed in 1972 in Sydney as Farm and changed their name to Midnight Oil in 1976.
They issued their self-titled debut in 1978 and achieved worldwide acclaim nearly a decade later with the release of 1987’s Diesel and Dust which included the single “Beds Are Burning.” Hillman replaced Gifford after the band recorded the album.
The group’s complete statement: We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle. He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade.
We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle. He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade. pic.twitter.com/qP5EJqZowL
— Midnight Oil (@midnightoilband) November 8, 2020
Bones joined Midnight Oil way back in 1987 after stints in various Kiwi bands, most notably, The Swingers. He played and sang on every Midnight Oil recording since Blue Sky Mining and we did thousands of gigs together.
We 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.
After the band, with Hillman, toured the world behind Diesel and Dust, they returned to the studio to record 1990’s Blue Sky Mining. Led by the (sort of) title track, “Blue Sky Mine,” it sold well and at #20 actually reached one spot higher on the U.S. sales chart than its predecessor.
In 2017, the group reformed for their first World Tour in over two decades. In keeping with the band’s longstanding commitments, their carbon footprint during “The Great Circle” World Tour was fully offset and sustainability initiatives were undertaken at all shows. They continued their collaborations with environmental organizations including Greenpeace, supporting their campaigns on crucial issues like dangerous climate change and the imminent threats to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Midnight Oil had always enjoyed a strong profile in Canada and Music Express was credited by the band with having helped break `Diesel And Dust’ in North America when featured in an in-depth interview with lead vocalist Peter Garrett in a 1988 cover story.
In preparation for their `The Great Circle’ world tour which brought them to Toronto in 2018 for both an intimate performance at The Danforth Hall theatre that Spring and a larger scale event at the Budweiser Stage later that summer, Hillman phoned me from Melbourne Australia to discuss the upcoming dates.
“The band had been apart while Garrett pursued a high-profile political career in Australia but they had revived themselves to perform at a number of charity concerts in their homeland, and we look forward to tackling the world market again.”
As an unsung hero and creative force in Midnight Oil, Hillman will be sorely missed.