Black Tears Sanitised

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On June 2, Powderfinger released their sixth studio album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence. The album contains a sanitised version of the track, “Black Tears,” after the band was pressured by defence lawyers for Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, who was charged with manslaughter over the death of Mulrunji in a Palm Island watchhouse. Hurley’s defence team lodged a complaint with the Queensland Attorney General, Kerry Shine.

n a statement released by Powderfinger, lead singer Bernard Fanning described the inspiration for Black Tears. When Fanning visited Uluru, he was appalled to see the level of disrespect for Indigenous culture. He saw tourists continuing to climb the rock, despite the widespread availability of literature and signs explaining why traditional owners find this offensive and asking visitors not to do it.

The second verse of the song, which originally included the words “an island watch house bed, a Black man’s lying dead,” referred to the events on Palm
Island. Fanning penned this lyric in December 2006 after the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions responded to a damning coroner’s report by recommending that no charges be laid against Hurley.

Powderfinger refused to pull the track from the album but did agree to alter the words, despite believing that the song could not possibly prejudice the Hurley trial.

Despite the bullying, injustice will continue to inspire songs of resistance. As Kev Carmody sang in his gritty 1989 song, “show us Blacks the justice in this white democracy, when you can execute us without trial while we’re held in custody.”

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