The death of Skyhooks guitarist Peter Starkie is the latest in a series of tragic events to befall what was one of the biggest rock bands to ever come from Australia.
Starkie, 72, died on Sunday after falling off a ladder at his home in Victoria, what his brother and fellow Skyhooks member Bob describing it as a ‘stupid’ accident.
The father-of-three was one of the original members of the ARIA Hall of Fame band, which were Australia’s favourite band in the 1970s.
But Starkie’s death is just the latest in a line of tragedies to rock the band, with former sidekicks Steve Hill dying of liver cancer in 2005 and Graeme Strachan in a helicopter crash in 2001.
Their most famous member, Red Symons, also lost his son Samuel after a long battle with cancer, and more recently suffered a serious brain injury after a fall at his home.
Renowned for being a glam rock band of the 1970s, Skyhooks appealed to a new age of music fans with lyrics that related to life during that era.
The death of former Skyhooks guitarist Peter Starkie is the latest in a series of tragic events to rock what was one of the biggest Australian bands of the 1970s
Former Skyhooks singer Peter Starkie (right) died on Sunday after falling from a ladder at his home. His death is the latest in a string of tragedies to rock the famous 1970s Australian band
They shot straight to the top of the charts with their debut album Living in the 70s, which was released in October 1974.
Less than a year later, in July 1975, the band also reached number one with their album Ego Is Not a Dirty Word, which included hits such as All My Friends Are Getting Married.
The band formed in suburban Melbourne in 1973, with Hill, Peter Starkie, Peter Inglis, Imants ‘Freddie’ Strauks and Greg Macainsh comprising the initial line up.
Within months the group had been signed to a deal by Michael Gudinski, after some encouragement from former Daddy Cool frontman Ross Wilson.
Peter Starkie left the group in August 1973 and was replaced by his brother Bob, with Red Symons taking over from Inglis on guitar and vocals.
They quickly gathered a large following in Melbourne, but put in a poor performance at a local festival in early 1974 which eventually resulted in a change of lead singer.
That same year they changed lead singer from Hill to Strachan and released a top rating album, Living In The 70s with hits including Horror Movie.
Over the years to follow they released numerous chart topping songs, and following their domestic success flew to the United States to tackle the international market.
Having become one of the biggest bands in Australia, the first signs of a split came in 1977 when Symons left the group.
They officially split in 1980 after mixed reviews of their new album which led to them taking out an ad in a newspaper that read ‘Why Don’t You All Get F***ed’ – the name of one of their songs.
The band would reform on a number of occasions over the 15 years to follow, before ending their association in 1992.
‘Freddie’ Strauks, ‘Shirley’ Strachan, Red Symons and Bob ‘Bongo’ Starkie during an interview in 1976
The band were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1992 after achieving multiple number one albums and top rating singles (Pictured are several of the band’s members in their typical lairish outfits)
The band’s lead singer Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan died in a helicopter crash in 2001
Surfers gather in the water above Noose where ‘Shirley’s’ ashes were scattered into the ocean
Tragedy first hit the group just a few years later when Symons’ then four-year-old son Samuel was diagnosed with cancer.
THE SKYHOOKS CURSE:
1976: The band splits up after a spate of number one albums. Despite trying to get the band back together on a number of occasions, they never reach their lofty heights
1995: Red Symons’ son Samuel is diagnosed with cancer
2001: Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan dies in a helicopter crash in rural Queensland
2005: The bands first singer Steve Hill dies after a long battle with liver cancer
2017: Red Symons suffers a serious brain injury after falling and hitting his head on a footpath
2018: Symons’ son Samuel dies at age 27 after battling cancer for more than two decades
He would battle the disease for 23 years, before dying in 2018.
His father paid an emotional tribute to his son on Melbourne radio station 3AW.
‘Samuel, I have always loved you. I will always love you. I shall always have you,’ he said on-air.
The Skyhooks’ curse continued when Strachan died after the helicopter he was solo-flying crashed in regional Queensland on August 29, 2001.
A post-crash report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found Strachan failed to take the winds around a mountain range into account as he flew.
More bad news struck the group in 2005, when Hill died after a long battle with liver cancer.
Symons himself then battled serious health issues when he fell and hit his head on a concrete footpath in July 2017.
The then ABC Melbourne breakfast host suffered a serious brain injury and later that same year left the station, after his contract was no renewed.
A year before his fall he had split with wife of 25 years Elly.
He last year admitted that he continues to ‘cry every day’ after losing his son, his job and his marriage.
‘I still cry every day about that,’ Symons told Good Weekend of his son’s tragic death.
‘In the end, with his recent… let’s say the word, death… what I clung to was just the idea of telling him that I loved him.
The band’s most famous member Red Symons lost his son Samuel (right) after a 23-year long battle with cancer in 2018
Steve Hill (centre) was the original singer in the band, but died after a battle with liver cancer in 2005
‘He went out with grace and dignity. He was in a good place with good people and I don’t believe he went out with discomfort or fear.’
The latest tragic death of Peter Starkie led to the emotional tribute from his brother, who shared the news on the Skyhooks Facebook page.
‘Very sad to deliver the news that my brother Peter has tragically died in one of those stupid ladder accidents,’
‘Peter George Starkie was born in Sydney in 1948, he was only 72 when he took the dive and had plenty of life ahead of him.
‘Apart from being a fabulous guitarist he was a brother who I looked up to. He went on to father three wonderful daughters. A step daughter Alice. and Ruby and Stella.
‘For the last twenty odd years he has lived happily inseparable with partner Dianna.’