TRUE TALENT: Roger Knox performing in Tamworth.
TRUE TALENT: Roger Knox performing in Tamworth. James Henry

'Black Elvis' Roger Knox rocks into the hall of fame

A PLANE crash almost cost his life but it couldn't hinder the talent that became so influential it led to Roger Knox being dubbed the Koori King of Country.

The Emu Vale man was one of only two people who survived the crash and was left with burns to almost his entire body, but music had the power to help him heal during an excruciating recovery process.

Despite still suffering pain today, he continues to share stories of his culture through songs.

Now the contributions made by the man known as Black Elvis are set to be recognised when he is inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.

Mr Knox describes himself as a "late starter" in the industry.

A childhood singing in church choirs did not evolve into a serious music career until he was in his 30s.

He was on his first national tour with Brian Young in 1981 when tragedy almost ended it all. Mr Knox was travelling in a plane that plummeted to the ground outside Oodnadatta and killed everyone on board, except him and one other person.

But Mr Knox did not walk away unscathed. He suffered burns to 80percent of his body and spent three months in hospital.

He had to learn - through intense pain - to walk again.

But through all the pain, tragedy and hardship, the people around him encouraged him to keep playing music.

"I give music the credit for that uplift and healing," he said.

 

(From left) Niiranny Brunton, 5, Bridgette Hinch, 11, Jhordyn Fernando, 7, Precious-Ivy Brown, 2, Roger Knox, Damon Hinch, 9, (front) and Deacon Hinch, 12.
(From left) Niiranny Brunton, 5, Bridgette Hinch, 11, Jhordyn Fernando, 7, Precious-Ivy Brown, 2, Roger Knox, Damon Hinch, 9, (front) and Deacon Hinch, 12. Elyse Wurm

Mr Knox went on to release his first album, Give it a Go, in 1983 and has since toured internationally and released multiple albums including the groundbreaking Stranger in My Land in 2013, which features Charlie Louvin.

Now 69, he has built a decorated career spanning over three decades studded with poignant moments including working with Jon Langford and Col Hardy.

While he does sing covers of country music, Mr Knox has worked hard throughout his career to also share his own stories about indigenous culture.

"We started to write songs because we couldn't tell our stories, we had to sing country and tell our stories through country music," Mr Knox said.

"I can't help who I am, I come from a long culture of song and dance stories and it's the best way to develop understanding between us and the understanding of the wider community."

Mr Knox said he believed music was a universal language, capable of tackling ignorance.

"It gives life to the mind and life to everything, it kept me going," he said.

"My stories are trying to break down stereotypes and prejudice that exists in the community."

But he said Australia still had work to do to break down barriers between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. "Let's put our fears and hate aside, and the music I do talks about all that," he said.

He is thrilled to be inducted into the hall of fame on Saturday in Darwin, which will be followed by a special display at the Australian Music Vault in Melbourne celebrating Mr Knox's contributions.

"What it tells me is that people have to be more aware and concerned about how you continue on in this life, it's about sincere hard work and commitment," Mr Knox said.

"If I can sing a song and dream a dream I'll keep going."

 

Roger Knox performing in Tamworth.
Roger Knox performing in Tamworth. James Henry

Breaking barriers to close gaps in communities

WHEN Roger Knox started playing music, it was often shunned by mainstream radio stations.

It continued a history of being treated differently because of his indigenous culture.

Mr Knox said he grew up on a mission at Toomelah under the welfare system and his mother was part of the Stolen Generation.

Mr Knox had to leave school at 15, denied further education.

"We had a lot of fear and hate for a system that took away our humanity, language and religion," he said.

"We've got to learn to respect each other's cultural wishes."

Mr Knox has been part of the music industry for more than three decades and uses music to encourage others to put their hate and fear aside.

"We had to open the doors, some people think the doors are ajar but they weren't and they're still not today," he said.

Mr Knox uses music as a platform to create change, sharing his story in the documentary Buried Country and performing and meeting people in prisons in Australia and overseas.

"A lot of our young people are inside these places and it doesn't look too good, you try and uplift them," he said.

Mr Knox said he learnt the value of hard work from his father and wants to continue closing gaps in communities.

His recent achievement shows the value of this hard work, but he also thanked the Darling Downs community for being part of his journey.



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