John Schumann is one of the very few songwriters who has changed the way a nation thinks and, accordingly, holds a distinguished place in the Australian music industry. Best known for his leadership of the legendary folk-rock band Redgum, and his Vietnam veterans’ anthem, I Was Only 19, John Schumann first came to national attention in 1980 as Redgum’s lead singer-songwriter.
In the ensuing years John Schumann has recorded ten albums and, with Redgum, toured the UK, Europe and Ireland where his songs are still played. In over 30 years in Australian music, as a member of Redgum and as a solo artist, John Schumann has received almost every award the industry has to offer – some twice over.
Prior to going professional with Redgum, John Schumann taught English, Drama and Outdoor Education at Marion High School in South Australia.
In 1998 until 2001, John’s passion for social justice and the environment led him into mainstream politics. In the 1998 federal election he took the Minister for Foreign Affairs down to the wire in the seat of Mayo, reducing Mr Downer’s blue-ribbon margin from 16% to 1.7%. John Schumann campaigned for three weeks only. The count took 12 days.
In late 2005 John Schumann released Lawson, a highly acclaimed album of songs drawn from the poetic works of Henry Lawson. Listening to the album will remind you of what it means to be Australian.
John’s current band, The Vagabond Crew, named after a line in the Lawson poem, Knocking Around, had its genesis in the recording of the “Lawson” album. Initially released on the Bombora label, Lawson was subsequently released on ABC/Universal Music along with a DVD of the making of the album and a gallery of photos from the sessions.
Lawson has been re-released on the original Bombora label. The projects website, www.henrylawson.net.au, features the documentary, a clip and other assets from the making of the album.
Released in 2007, again on his new label ABC/Universal Music, Gelignite Jack – The John Schumann Collection showcases the outstanding craftsmanship of one of Australia’s most recognised singer/songwriters with hits such as I Was Only 19, Long Run and I’ve Been To Bali Too.
His 2009 album, Behind The Lines, recorded with The Vagabond Crew, includes a DVD of the band in concert at the Woodford Folk Festival. It’s a collection of classic Australian songs (reinterpreted in Schumann’s inimitable style) that, directly or indirectly, reflect Australia’s participation in various wars from World War 1 until today.
Special guest artists featured on the album include his mates Rob Hirst (ex Midnight Oil) and Russell Morris along with other industry notables.
Packed venues and standing ovations demonstrate how, in a very short time, John Schumann & the Vagabond Crew have earned for themselves a stellar reputation on the festival circuit as an inspirational, intelligent and defiantly Australian concert act.
John Schumann continues to perform at important and high-profile events such as the Australia Day Concert in Canberra, the Anzac Day Match at the MCG and the 40th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. John and his band have travelled to East Timor, Afghanistan/Middle East Region (twice), the Solomon Islands and Tanzania to entertain the Australian forces deployed there.
On August 17th 2016, John gave a compelling and emotional performance of his classic “I was only 19” to 128 Vietnam veterans in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, John also gave the guitar on which he wrote “19” to the War Memorial where it is now on display.
John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew’s most recent release is Ghost and Memories (ABCMusic/Universal). With his distinctive voice and renowned lyricism, Schumann explored new topics including the life of John McDouall Stuart, the complexities of being a ‘FIFO’ worker, climate change and our Anzac history. Ghost and Memories also features a co-composition with his friend, Shane Howard, Times like These.
A graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, John is currently Chair of the Maxima Group. He is also is on the Development Board of South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the board of Trojans Trek.
He runs his own strategic communications consultancy, Schumann and Associates. Based in Adelaide, Schumann and Associates consults to public and private sector organisations in the fields of marketing communications, media and issue management and strategic engagement.
Among his many accolades, John Schumann is the recipient of the Order of Australia Medal and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Flinders University. His lyrics are on reading lists in schools, colleges and universities throughout Australia.
Described recently by rock historian Glenn A. Baker as “One of the finest songwriters this country has produced”, John’s songs have been paid the ultimate compliment by becoming the property of the people and the country they were written about. His lyrics are on reading lists in schools, colleges and universities throughout Australia.