Kev Carmody is a living legend here in Australia,
often referred to as the Australian Bob Dylan.
He released a debut album in 1988, Pillars of Society,
it was unlike anything previously heard from
black Australia. Instead of the country/rock/reggae
that was typical at the time of most Aboriginal bands,
Kev's songs were thoughtful folk-based stories
with insightful, politically aware lyrics.
Songs like ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ quickly established him
as a powerful new voice in Australian Indigenous music.
His iconic 1993 duet with Aussie troubadour Paul Kelly,
‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ is rightly
considered a national classic.
Kev Carmody grew up on a cattle station near Goranba,
70km west of Dalby in the Darling Downs area of south eastern
Queensland. His early childhood was simple but happy.
He saw few children until the age of seven, mixing mostly with
stockmen. The family, although poor and despised by the local
white community because of their “mixed marriage”
(his father was “mad Irish, fighting Irish” and his mother a Murrie)
lived largely off the land growing vegetables near the house
and hunting and catching everything from kangaroos to fish.
In 1956, when he was ten, Carmody was taken from his parents
and sent to a "Christian school" which he has described as
"little more than an orphanage". Although he often talks
about the school it has rarely entered his songwriting.
After school Kev returned to his rural roots working for
seventeen years as a back country laborer doing everything
from bag lumping to wool pressing.
He told one newspaper that his musical career was
"a far cry from the 15 year old who thought he'd spent
the rest of his life pressing wool.
Mind you, I had a job then,
I was actually making bloody money.
Not with this music caper...."
When he was 33 he got the opportunity to go to University
where he studied history eventually progressing to work
on a PhD. His thesis topic, not surprisingly,
was the history of the Darling Downs between 1830 - 1860.
His career in music started while he was at University.
I've got so many stories to tell about Kev,
I've seen him play so many times
since the 80's. He doesn't play much anymore, he has
trouble playing with arthritis these days.
I've met him a couple of times, saw him play a gig not
15 mins drive from my house, drove from Brisbane to
Lismore once(4 hrs) to see him play a gig in a little church
to maybe 30 people and the last time I saw him was at the
pig city festival, where he had everyone singing along by
the end. In the early days of the Maleny/Woodford folk
festival he was an incredible support, always there for the
whole thing and playing heaps.
In the 90's I played in a Latin American band, I was the
only non Latin member and we covered "Thou shall not steal"
which was our only English singing song.
That was my big moment as I sung it.
In 1989 Kev met up Bart Willoughby and his
new band Mixed Relation's, to record this
version of "Thou shall not steal."
During the rehearsals another song started
to develop. 4 years later, that jam session
became the song.
01 - Freedom
02 - Freedom Radio Edit
03 - Thou Shall Not Steal
From Little Things Big Things Grow - Make Poverty History
Thou Shalt not Steal - Kev Carmody
1788 down Sydney cove
The first boat people land
Sorry boys our gains your loss
We’re gonna steal your land
And if you break our new British law
Be sure your gonna hang or work your
lives like our convicts
With a chain on your neck and hand
And they told us
Woah black woman thou shalt not steal
Hey black man thou shalt not steal
We’re gonna civilize your black barbaric lives
And we’ll teach you how to kneel
But your history couldn’t hide the genocide
The hypocrisy that was real
For your Jesus said you’re supposed to give
The oppressed a better deal
We say to you
yes our land thou shalt not steal
Woah Our land you better heal
With your science and technology
You can make a nuclear bomb
Development has increased its size
Three million mega ton
And if you think that’s progress
I suggest your reason is unsound
You should have found out long ago
You best keep it in the ground
Job and me and Jesus Sittin underneath
that Indooroopilly bridge
Watchin’ that blazin’ sun go down
Behind a tall tree'd mountain ridge
The land’s our heritage and spirits here
The rightful culture's black
And we’re sitting here just wondering
When we gonna get our land back
Well you talk of conservation
Keep the forest pristine green
But in 200 years your materialism
Has stripped the forest clean
And a racist contradiction
that's understood by none
but mostly their left hand holds the bible,
And the right hand holds the gun