- 09 Nov 20
New Zealand-born Hillman died at his home in Milwaukee on Saturday following a lengthy cancer diagnosis.
Midnight Oil’s bassist and backing vocalist Bones Hillman has died of cancer at the age of 62.
His fellow band members said they were “grieving the loss of our brother”:
“He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade,” they wrote in a moving statement.
“Bones joined Midnight Oil way back in 1987 after stints in various Kiwi bands, most notably, The Swingers. He played and sang on every Midnight Oil recording since Blue Sky Mining and we did thousands of gigs together.
“We will deeply miss our dear friend and companion and we send our sincerest sympathies to Denise, who has been a tower of strength for him," they added.
“Haere rā Bonesy from Jim, Martin, Peter & Rob.”
We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle. He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade. pic.twitter.com/qP5EJqZowL
— Midnight Oil (@midnightoilband) November 8, 2020
Born Wayne Stevens in 1958, the bassist became a crucial part of Midnight Oil in 1987 after playing with several New Zealand outfits - including the Masochists.
Hillman replaced Peter Gifford after living in Australia for numerous years beforehand, moving there with the Swingers seven years earlier.
The musician joined before the release of Diesel and Dust, the band’s sixth studio album.
The LP included 'Beds are Burning', one of the group’s most well-known and highly-regarded tracks.
Midnight Oil temporarily disbanded in 2002 when lead singer and environmentalist, Peter Garrett, pursued a career in politics.
Hillman moved with his family to Nashville in 2007 for its music scene before re-joining the band as part of their 2017 reunion tour.
Hillman also recorded Midnight Oil’s latest album, The Makarrata Project, which was released last month.
The Sydney Peace Foundation awarded the gold medal for human rights to Midnight Oil in October for their “commitment to the pursuit of human rights over an extended period ... with a powerful, far-reaching impact”.
Seminal '90s Australian band Jebediah shared their own tribute to Hillman, recalling how he helped shape the recording experience of the group's debut album Slightly Odway.
“Bones was the one who would always stop by for a game and a chat and a hang out,” the band said of Hillman, who was working on Midnight Oil’s Redneck Wonderland in the same studio at the time.
“Being barely out of our teens and recording our first album, this was a pretty cool turn of events. I think he was just genuinely curious and friendly enough to want to shoot some pool with these funny looking kids and hang out with us a bit but he was also demonstrating, in his own subtle way the fine art of being a mature musician in a massive band and all the while just keeping it low key and classy.
"We were still an impressionable bunch back then and these experiences meant so much more to us than someone like Bones could ever know.”
Russell Crowe and Canadian folk-rock icon and actor Alan Doyle also shared tributes to the musician.