~ Augie Hopperman ~

Augustus Reynolds Hopperman was born in Manangatang in 1947, and moved with his mother to the Melbourne suburb of Richmond when he was 15 years old. 

After completing a welding apprenticeship he took a local factory job but found himself unwilling to settle down to any kind of stable work. For his remaining teen years he also bootlegged liquor, served as a speakeasy croupier, was a blackjack dealer, and boxed as a welterweight billed as “Kid Kong”.

Hopperman’s mother encouraged him to pursue a more exciting profession if he was unhappy or bored, which led him to join the RANHFV, an elite helicopter unit that was specifically formed to support allied forces during the Vietnam War. He was deployed to the Phuoc Tuy Province on 1 December 1967, and over two extended tours of duty participated in hundreds of long range reconnaissance and rescue missions in enemy territory.

~ Kid Kong ~

~ Da Nang ’68 ~

On 15 April 1970, while ferrying reinforcements and medical supplies to an army base near Duc Pho, enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire severely damaged Hopperman’s aircraft and killed his gunner. Even though he had fuel streaming out of his chopper and shrapnel in his left ankle, Hopperman managed to coax his limping aircraft back to safe territory and landed upside down in the Mekong River.

Hopperman’s combat flying career was over, and he was unable to walk for eight months. During his hospitalisation a nurse gave him a guitar so that he could recover the dexterity of his hands. In learning to play, he discovered his musical talent and began to compose fragments of lyrics and poetry.

Returning home from the Saigon Military Hospital in October 1970, Hopperman found himself disillusioned and frustrated. He later said of this time, “After ‘Nam, I wanted no more part in war. I still had a shell fragment in my ankle, and my left hand was pretty smashed up. On top of all that, the Government seemed to disown me!”

Hopperman became associated with Vietnam Veterans of Australia in early 1971, and began spreading awareness about the war at local high schools. Before the conflict was declared over in 1975, he was arrested 88 times for being naked while politically protesting.

~ Lost in Melbourne ’70 ~

~ Sydney Town Hall ’71 ~

On 3 June 1971, Hopperman performed his first song to more than 40,000 protestors from the steps of Sydney’s Town Hall. Bronson J. Paedamonte, then a young promoter immediately sought the artist out backstage, and signed him as the first act to the Paedamonte Record label. It was Hopperman’s idea to place the iconic raindrop on the new label’s logo. 

His debut album Bloodshot was released on 12 October 1971, and peaked at No. 7 on the Australian charts, while the single ‘Brother the Sun’ went to No. 1 and was awarded a gold disc.

The song knocked ‘Green-Eyed Lady’, by The Sugarloaf, out of the top spot on the charts. According to Hopperman, ‘Brother the Sun’ was recorded in one take on a Saturday morning from words scrawled on an old pizza box. The recording includes an “Owwww” from when Hopperman could not read his own writing.

During the ensuing tour, Hopperman quickly became noted as the loudest act on the Australian pub circuit and accrued a considerable ‘hard living and hard playing’ reputation nationwide.

~ Moomba Festival ~

~ Meadows Tecnicolour Fair ’72 ~

Hopperman headlined The Meadows Technicolour Fair in Adelaide over the Australia Day long weekend in 1972, as part of a star studded line up including Leo de Castro, Goblins Band, and Gerry Humphries. Music reviewer Kathy Decklan described Hopperman’s set: “One man and an acoustic guitar shook the foundations, cracked walls and broke windows… it was like we were standing on a pair of 747 engines.”

Bloodshot’s second single, ‘Telegram Man’, a three minute screaming indictment against Prime Minister Harold Holt and the conscription issue, was released on 2 February 1972. It went to No. 1 domestically as well as charting highly in Canada and North Korea.

When Hopperman performed at the Myer Music Bowl during the Moomba Festival in March 1972, an estimated 200,000 people filled the park, and forced police to close roads around the venue. It was at this show that Hopperman had a backstage conversation with preacher Angela Bissette. This meeting saw Hopperman become a born-again Christian Biker before the middle of that year.

Hopperman received unanimously good reviews for his portrayal of Lamar in the stage musical Godspell alongside fellow artists Daryl Braithwaite, Doug Broadshaw, and Colleen Hewett. The musical opened on 12 April 1973, and played 304 performances in Melbourne and 308 in Sydney over the next two years. Promoter Jim McKay praised him as an “extremely professional showman”.

~ as Lamar in Godspell ~

~ Cairn’s RSL ’72 ~

After releasing the surprisingly quiet Good Seeds in June 1975, Hopperman flew out of Australia, with only a guitar and a backpack, for his first and only international tour. Performing in places that rarely hosted foreign artists – including Mexico, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Greece, and Egypt, Hopperman globe trotted for over thirteen months without a road crew or firm itinerary. The tour culminated when he performed to a capacity crowd in Kingston, Jamaica, and was joined on stage by Bob Marley.

Harmony, released in May 1977, was a collection of uplifting and spiritual songs, which included a gospel remake of ‘Brother the Sun’, and the haunting ‘Napalm Blister’. It would be Hopperman’s final album.

In 1979 Hopperman left the music industry and settled in Sohana, in the Southern Province of Papua New Guinea with his Triumph motorcycle, his guns and his wife Persephone.

~ Broome ’73 ~

~ Bronson  J. Paedamonte tribute ’07 ~

Little was heard from Hopperman for almost a decade until February 1989, when he returned to Australia for a series of press conferences with Chief Owa, of the Korowai tribe, to raise awareness about deforestation.

Later that year he collaborated with The PNG Punch, to record ‘These Hills Lay Dead’, after Rio Tinto destroyed a mountain of pristine rainforest to build one of the largest copper mines in the world. The PNG Punch comprised of Papuan musician Pomat Loco and ten members of the BRA (Bougainville Revolutionary Army).

‘These Hills Lay Dead’, sung in both Tok Pisin and English, was accompanied by a video clip of various tribes and land owners protesting national forces, as well as Hopperman performing with the PNG Punch, and also training alongside the BRA. It became the country’s anthem right up until the signing of the peace agreement in May 2001, and remains strong in Papuan memory today.

~ The PNG Punch ~

At the The Bronson J. Paedamonte Tribute in 2007, Augie Hopperman modified his lyrics of ‘Brother the Sun’ to reflect contemporary problems of the ongoing war in the Middle East. Music critics in attendance were unanimous in their praise for Hopperman’s performance. Rolling Stone Australia proclaimed, “as electrifying and government defying as ever… Let’s hope this isn’t the last we see of him.”

Augie Hopperman died peacefully in his home on 15 February 2010, surrounded by his wife, six children and the entire village community of Sohana. In keeping with Hopperman’s final wishes, his remains were scattered over the top of Mount Bagana, a nearby volcano which had last erupted on the day of his birth in 1951.