James Dixon Swan (born 28 April 1956), better known as Jimmy Barnes, is a Scottish-born Australian rock singer-songwriter. His father, Jim Swan, was a prizefighter and his older brother John Swan is also a rock singer. It was actually John who had encouraged and taught Jim how to sing as he wasn't really interested at the time. His career as both a solo performer and as the lead vocalist with the rock band Cold Chisel has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time. The combination of 14 Australian Top 40 albums for Cold Chisel and 13 charting solo albums, including nine No. 1s, gives Barnes the highest number of hit albums of any Australian artist.
Jimmy Barnes was born in Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Adelaide, South Australia as a 4-year old on 7 January 1961 with his parents Jim and Dorothy Swan and siblings John, Dororthy, Linda, Lisa & Alan. They eventually settled in Elizabeth. Shortly afterward, Barnes' parents divorced. His mother Dorothy soon remarried, to a clerk named Reg Barnes(deceased 3rd Sep 2013). After her daughter Lisa was teased by a schoolmate about being adopted, Dorothy encouraged her children to change their surname to Barnes. All of them did except for the oldest brother John, who would go on to be much better known as Swanee, eventually recording a series of albums under that name from the 1980s. This would later cause confusion about Jimmy Barnes and Swan; many thought them to be half- or stepbrothers.
Barnes was raised a Protestant, and considers himself a Buddhist, although in September 2009 he revealed that he has Jewish ancestry, his maternal grandmother having been Jewish.
The Cold Chisel years (1973-1983):
Barnes took an apprenticeship in an iron smelter with the South Australian railways in 1973 but the love he and his brother had for music led him to join a band. Swanee was now playing drums with Fraternity, who had just parted ways with singer Bon Scott. Barnes took over the role but his tenure with the band was brief and before long he had joined a harder-edged band called Orange, featuring organist and songwriter Don Walker, guitarist Ian Moss, drummer Steve Prestwich and bass player Les Kaczmarek. Within a short time the group had changed its name to Cold Chisel and began to develop a strong presence on the local music scene. Barnes' relationship with the band was often volatile and he left several times, leaving Moss to handle vocal duties until he returned. After a temporary move to Armidale, New South Wales while Walker completed his engineering studies there, Cold Chisel moved to Melbourne in August 1976 and then three months later shifted base to Sydney. Progress was slow and Barnes announced he was leaving once again in May 1977 to join Swanee in a band called Feather. However, his farewell performance with Cold Chisel went so well he changed his mind and a month later the band was signed by WEA.
By 1980 Cold Chisel was the biggest band in Australia and Barnes had developed a notorious reputation as a hard-drinking wild man who reportedly drank more than two bottles of vodka a day, much of it onstage during performances.
While in Canberra in November 1979 however, he met Jane Mahoney (born Jane Dejakasaya, in Bangkok, Thailand, 1958) the stepdaughter of an Australian diplomat. Barnes began a relationship with her and they started living together but in March 1980 she began to feel overwhelmed by the rock lifestyle and followed her family to Tokyo where her father was posted. Barnes wrote the song "Rising Sun" about this, which would appear on the album East. The pair married in Sydney on 22 May 1981 and Jane soon gave birth to their first child Mahalia, named after Mahalia Jackson, on 12 July 1982. The couple now have four children (Mahalia Barnes, Eliza-Jane Barnes, Elly-may Barnes and Jackie Barnes who formed the group Tin Lids). Barnes was already the father of a son, David Campbell, who, due to the young age of his parents at the time of his birth, was being raised by his grandmother. While Barnes maintained contact with him, Campbell did not become aware that Barnes was his father and not merely a family friend until the mid-1980s.
The singer had never been careful with money and the increasing pressure on him to provide for his young family caused even more tension between him and the rest of Cold Chisel. Despite being hugely successful in Australia, the group had still not been able to crack the market internationally and a disastrous tour of the United States in 1981 pulled them even further apart. While the 1982 album Circus Animals provided Cold Chisel with its second consecutive No. 1 album, Barnes returned from the band's German tour in 1983 virtually broke. He asked for a $10,000 advance from the band's management but was refused, as the terms of the group's contract meant that if one member was given such a sum, the rest of them were entitled to the same amount. At a meeting in August, it was decided that Cold Chisel should split up. The group had already begun to fragment, with Ray Arnott having replaced Steve Prestwich earlier in the year. Sessions for the final album were spread across different studios as various members refused to work together but at the end of the year The Last Stand farewell tour (with Prestwich back in the band) became the highest-grossing concert series by an Australian band ever. The group's final performance was in Sydney on 12 December 1983, reportedly precisely ten years after its original formation. The resultant film of that show remains the best-selling live concert film of any Australian band.
Barnes had recorded seven albums with Cold Chisel between 1978 and 1983, including two live albums (the second of which, Barking Spiders Live 1983, was released in 1984), and was arguably now Australia's highest-profile rock singer.
Barnes launched his own career less than a month after Cold Chisel's Last Stand tour came to an end. He assembled a band that included Arnott, former Fraternity bass player Bruce Howe and guitarists Mal Eastick (ex-Stars) and Chris Stockley (ex-The Dingoes) and began touring and writing for a solo album. Signing to Mushroom Records, Barnes released his first solo album Bodyswerve. He was now billing himself as Jimmy Barnes, instead of merely 'Jim Barnes' as he had been credited during his Cold Chisel days. The album was immediately successful, entering the Australian charts at Number One on 8 October. This was the first of a remarkable run of top charting albums for Barnes, as each of his first six solo albums all debuted in the Number One position, a feat that no other Australian musical artist is likely to match. His list of Number One albums now totals eleven, including three Cold Chisel albums. His total of nine No. 1 albums as a solo performer is matched by no other Australian recording artist. The final Cold Chisel studio album 20th Century and the live album Barking Spiders Live were also released in 1984. 20th Century peaked at No. 1 on 23 April.
On 22 December 1984, days after Barnes had begun that year's Barnestorming tour, his second daughter Eliza-Jane was born.
Early in his solo career, Barnes was determined to break into the US market and signed to Geffen Records for release there. His second album For the Working Class Man was tailored in this direction, featuring remixed songs from Bodyswerve plus five new tracks including "Working Class Man" that was written by Journey musician Jonathan Cain and would become Barnes' signature tune. Several US musicians worked on the album including Cain, Charlie Sexton, singer Kim Carnes and British drummer Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. The album was released as a double vinyl set and shifted 250,000 copies in twelve months in Australia. Like its predecessor, For the Working Class Man debuted on the national chart at No. 1 on 16 December 1985. It remained at No. 1 for seven weeks. Titled simply Jimmy Barnes in the US, the album was issued in February to tie in with the release of the Ron Howard film Gung Ho which featured "Working Class Man". Because of this, Gung Ho was released as Working Class Man in Australia.
The Jimmy Barnes band that toured Australia in support of the album featured Howe and Arnott, plus keyboardist Peter Kekell, former Rose Tattoo guitarist Robin Riley and American guitarist Dave Amato. With the release of the album in America, Barnes headed off with a band of Canadian musicians hand-picked by his North American management team and toured with ZZ Top. It was the first time since 1981 that he had toured without his family as part of his entourage as Jane was pregnant. Shortly after their son Jackie (named after Jackie Wilson) was born on 4 February 1986 she and the children joined him in the US for the rest of the tour.
In 1986, Jimmy Barnes recorded two songs with INXS, an Easybeats cover "Good Times" and "Laying Down The Law", which he co-wrote with INXS members Andrew Farriss and Michael Hutchence. "Good Times" was used as the theme song for the Australian Made series of concerts that toured the country in the summer of 1986-87. Australian Made was the largest touring festival of Australian music talent that had ever been attempted to that point. Barnes and INXS headlined and the rest of the line-up featured Mental as Anything, Divinyls, Models, The Saints, I'm Talking and The Triffids. The shows began in Hobart, Tasmania on 26 December and concluded in Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January 1987. A concert film of this event was made by Richard Lowenstein and released later that year. "Good Times" peaked at No. 2 on the Australian chart and several months later was featured in the Joel Schumacher film The Lost Boys, allowing it to chart Top 40 in the US.
The "Good Times"/"Laying Down the Law" release was the first in a long line of songs Barnes would record with other well known singers and artists. In 1991 he recorded a version of "When Something is Wrong with My Baby" with John Farnham as a single and centerpiece track for his Soul Deep album. The following year he released a version of "Simply The Best" as a duet with Tina Turner that was used as the theme song for that year's Australian Rugby League advertising campaign. It peaked at #13 in Australia. His 1993 album Flesh and Wood also featured several duets, including songs with Joe Cocker, Archie Roach, Tommy Emmanuel and a version of The Band's "The Weight" with The Badloves.
The next album release Freight Train Heart (1987) again featured contributions from a range of US musicians including Huey Lewis, Journey members Randy Jackson and Neal Schon and former Babys and Rod Stewart drummer Tony Brock, who would later accompany Barnes on tour. The recording process was deeply problematic however, as Barnes fought with producer Jonathan Cain over artistic control and Geffen Records wanted to feature a solo by Robert Cray in the track "Too Much Ain't Enough Love" in place of the one laid down by Schon. In the end, Barnes claimed the masters and returned to Sydney to rework the recording with English producer Mike Stone. Most of the songs were remixed, with parts added by Peter Kekell, Rick Brewster from The Angels, and Johnny Diesel, the 20-year old guitarist and frontman of Perth band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors, who had just begun to make a name for themselves. Jon Farriss from INXS and ex-Angels bassist Chris Bailey also played on the album. Diesel, Kekell, Brock, Bailey and Dave Amato were kept on as Barnes' touring band, which hit the road in November just ahead of the release of the first single, "Too Much Ain't Enough Love" in December 1987. It became Barnes' first No. 1 hit single. The album followed the trend set by the previous two, and debuted in the No. 1 slot on 21 December.
Freight Train Heart found moderate success outside of Australia and as recently as 2003 was named as one of the top 100 rock albums of all time by British magazine Powerplay. His problems with Geffen during the recording process caused him to sever his relations with them and he eventually signed to Atlantic in 1990.
In Australia, Jimmy Barnes' success remained virtually unmatched. The Number One success of his first three albums continued with the live album Barnestorming, recorded during the promotional tour of the same name and peaking at No. 1 for three weeks from 5 December. A version of the Percy Sledge standard "When A Man Loves A Woman" lifted from the album was a No. 3 hit. His next tour brought controversy by being underwritten by Pepsi, which allowed him to expand the production and increase promotion, and at the end of the tour he made a $25,000 donation to the Children's Hospital in Camperdown, Sydney.
In the middle of 1989, Jane Barnes went into Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney with pregnancy complications; Elly-May Barnes was born almost three months prematurely on 3 May. Her father held off all further writing and recording until she was released from a humidicrib several months later.
Barnes signed to Atlantic for worldwide release in mid-1990 and immediately headed into the studio with producer Don Gehman to record Two Fires. The album featured songwriting contributions from the likes of Desmond Child, Diane Warren and Holly Knight, whose track became the title of his record and vocal contributions from Brian Setzer, and from his wife and children. Collectively known as the Tin Lids (after Glaswegian rhyming-slang for "kids"), the four Barnes children later recorded three albums of their own. Two Fires combined live drums with synthesised drum machines and contained the hits "Lay Down Your Guns", "Make it Last All Night", "When Your Love is Gone" and "Little Darling". It had a slight funk influence and an even more polished sound than his previous albums but this proved no barrier to it becoming his fifth consecutive Australian No. 1 album.
The following year he released Soul Deep, an album of soul covers. Barnes had long fostered a love for soul and black music, naming his children after influential black artists and including songs by Sam Cooke and Percy Sledge on previous albums. He and Gehman had discussed the idea during the sessions for Two Fires and both had apparently decided that it would be "a fun thing to do". Soul Deep went on to become Jimmy Barnes' most successful album ever, spawning the No. 3 single "When Something is Wrong with My Baby", a duet with John Farnham. Re-releases of the album were issued in special gatefold sleeves with embossed gold lettering, collector cards and extra live tracks. It remains one of the best-selling Australian albums of all time.
The 1993 album Heat saw Barnes return to hard rock. Influenced by the then-current grunge trend and the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Heat was an attempt to move back to Barnes' raw rock'n'roll roots after the polished sound of Soul Deep and Two Fires. While described as his most interesting album, it broke his run of Number One releases (it peaked at #2) but did contain the hit "Stone Cold", written by former Cold Chisel bandmate Don Walker. It marked the first time Jimmy Barnes had worked with any member of his old band for almost a decade. The pair teamed up for an acoustic version of the track for an unplugged album Flesh and Wood, which appeared later the same year. Flesh and Wood reached #1 on the Australian album chart. It included a version of The Band's "The Weight", recorded with The Badloves, which became a hit. Also in 1993, Barnes teamed up with Tina Turner for a duet version of The Best in the form of a TV promotion for rugby league's Winfield Cup. The single reached the top ten that year.
Following this, in the mid-1990s, Jimmy Barnes' career suffered a slump. The singer faced financial ruin as his music publishing company Dirty Sheet Music and his wife's children's fashion label both went broke. He was pursued by both the ANZ Bank and the Australian Taxation Office for amounts exceeding $1.3 million. The family sold their property in Bowral, New South Wales and settled for some time in Aix-en-Provence, France, attracting some adverse publicity when he assaulted a television crew from Channel 7. While there, Barnes did considerable live work throughout Britain and toured with the Rolling Stones. His 1995 album Psyclone reached number 2 in Australia and featured the top ten hit "Change of Heart", but it did not sell as well as previous albums. In 1996 the greatest hits compilation Hits returned Jimmy Barnes to the top of Australian charts, along with the hit single "Lover Lover". It was the beginning of a comeback that was hastened by the reformation of Cold Chisel in 1998.
In March 1999 he performed the 1978 Sylvester hit "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" live onstage at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras' annual party.
Later that year Barnes released the heavy rock single "Love and Hate", followed by its parent album Love and Fear. An autobiographical record combining hard rock with electronic music, Love and Fear was Barnes' first album to miss the Australian top ten.
The comeback was continued with another string of solo releases, including a second album of soul tunes, Soul Deeper (ARIA #3, 2000), and two live albums, the first an acoustic performance and the second a performance of his soul songs. He appeared live on stage with INXS at some shows throughout Australia between 1999 and 2001, but the reception to this was not encouraging. He also performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In 2004, Barnes recorded an album with Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse, Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake, bass player Bob Daisley and keyboard player Don Airey under the name Living Loud. The self-titled album featured a number of songs originally written and recorded with Ozzy Osbourne by Kerslake, Daisley and Airey.
Double Happiness, released in July 2005, reaffirmed his popularity, debuting at #1 on the ARIAnet Albums Chart, his seventh album to do so. Double Happiness was a complete album of duets, including several with his children, daughters Mahalia and Elly-May, son Jackie and oldest son, entertainer David Campbell. Roachford, Smoky Dawson, Ian Moss and Tim Rogers of You Am I are among others who appear. After its initial success, it was re-released as a double CD/DVD package featuring many of his duets from previous albums, including those with INXS, John Farnham, Joe Cocker and Tina Turner. Double Happiness was followed in 2006 by karaoke DVD version that featured many of his songs minus the vocal track.
Jimmy Barnes was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame on 23 October 2005 for his solo career efforts, and coupled with Cold Chisel's 1993 induction, Barnes has entered into the Hall of Fame twice.
In late 2006, Barnes became patron of the Choir of Hard Knocks, a choral group formed by Jonathon Welch and consisting of homeless and disadvantaged people in Melbourne. The formation of the choir was documented by the ABC as a five-part series aired in May 2007. Barnes took an active part in the teaching of the choir despite his health problems and has even busked with them. Barnes or a member of his extended family have regularly performed "Flame Trees" with the Choir at their concerts including those at Melbourne Town Hall on 24 June and the Sydney Opera House 17 July 2007.
He underwent heart surgery in February 2007 and then in May, the boxed CD set 50 was released, featuring remastered versions of all his studio albums and a double CD of rare tracks. The collection was limited to 5000 copies.
On 7 July 2007 Barnes was a presenter at the Australian leg of Live Earth. In August he became a regular presenter on The Know, a pop culture program on the pay TV channel MAX and has also been a presenter of the Planet Rock program on the Austereo network.
In September 2007 he started recording his 13th studio album, Out in the Blue. Produced by Nash Chambers, it was released on 14 November and debuted in the ARIA chart at #3. The songs were written while he recovered from his heart surgery, and displayed a more subdued mood than much of his previous output. "When Two Hearts Collide" was a duet with Kasey Chambers. The album was promoted with a performance at the Sydney Opera House, which was released on CD and DVD.
He continues to recognise and give support to young bands and artists in Australia. In a January 2007 interview with The Bulletin, Barnes spoke passionately about Australian rock musicians saying: "Australian bands for me will always have the grunt. Grunt is what gives you longevity, strength, the power to believe in yourself. We have great bands here because they play live, they cut their teeth playing to people.". In March 2008, Barnes appeared as a special guest during soul singer Guy Sebastian's tour.
In September 2008 he undertook a tour of Europe. November saw the release of a duet with son David Campbell, a cover of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" that featured on Campbell's album Good Lovin. In September the following year his fifteenth studio album The Rhythm and the Blues was released, immediately becoming his ninth No. 1 charting solo release, thus giving him more No. 1 albums than any other Australian artist. The same week, after hinting about the possibility during his appearance on Good News Week, it was announced that Cold Chisel would play at the V8 Supercars race in Sydney on 5 December 2009.
Also in 2008, Barnes became the face of the Intensive Care Appeal, a major fund-raising event held annually in Australia and New Zealand for the Intensive Care Foundation. The goal of the Appeal is to create awareness and raise funds for critically ill patients in intensive-care units.
Barnes released Rage and Ruin on 27 August 2010, his first album of original material since 2007. He has stated that the ideas for most of the lyrics and song themes came from a journal he kept during a period in his life (late 1990s to early 2000s) when he struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Two singles have been released from the album: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" and "God or Money". The album debuted at number 3 on the ARIA Albums Chart on 5 September 2010. Three weeks later, on 27 September, it was revealed that Barnes has two adult daughters he had never previously met.
On 14 March 2011 he planted a flame tree, made famous in Cold Chisel's 1984 song Flame Trees, at the National Arboretum Canberra. He then headlined at Celebrate in the Park, playing a 90-minute set which included his solo hits and some Cold Chisel greats. He was joined by daughter Mahalia in a soulful rendition of "When the War Is Over", which he dedicated to the memory of Steve Prestwich.