One of my best friends, Peter Gelling, died at the end of September, aged 58. He was a brilliant musician across a range of styles and instruments but mainly blues and guitar and harmonica.
My obituary-feature for him was published in ‘The Canberra Times’.
At the wake for Peter, held at Tilley’s Devine Cafe in Canberra, a recording of his alternative national anthem, ‘Australia we don’t care’, was played – everyone stood for it. He would have loved that.
Peter was frequently annoyed by musicians who claimed to be blues artists yet invariably played rock. When I first saw him play, at a gig where he accompanied Wendy Saddington in August 1990, his subtlety, sophisticated syncopation and authentic blues sensibility jumped out at me, as it was so rare in Australia.
Perhaps for this reason, Peter was able to readily grasp the concept of ‘pseudo-left’, that a left position needs more than an individual or group adopting a label for its justification – just as it takes more than a ‘blues’ label to make one a genuine blues musician.
I’m not aware that he ever adopted an “ism” but he was a deep dialectical thinker and repudiated both the pseudo-left and the overt conservative/reactionary Right. He occasionally checked out C21st Left, and would be pleased for me to pay tribute to him here. He didn’t have formal university qualifications but was better than most academics I know, when it comes to literature and philosophy and critical thought.
A humanist, atheist, and gentle man who continued his service to others in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous for decades after getting ‘clean’, he liked to quote an anecdote told by Buddy Guy about BB King, which relates to ‘cultural appropriation’:
BB King and I were in Memphis once and this lady ran up to him and said, ‘Hey man, these white people are taking the blues from us.’ BB said, No ma’am. They didn’t take it. You just quit listening to it.’
Peter wrote, performed and recorded his alternative national anthem, ‘Australia we don’t care’ around 2001. It expresses his support for refugees and satirizes nationalism.
Please share it.
Here’s another of Peter’s songs – ‘Ought to be ashamed’ – about male chauvinism, reflecting his support for women’s empowerment.