Midnight Oil Bassist Bones Hillman Dies

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.
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.
Haere rā Bonesy from Jim, Martin, Peter & Rob.


The Oils’ brass section was playing with Russell Crowe, and I was invited to tour with them for a while. We played all over the world and did lots of live TV shows – we even performed with Elvis Costello once.

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Midnight Oil’s bassist Bones Hillman dies after cancer battle as band’s new record soars to No. 1
Kathy McCabe
November 8, 2020 - 1:42PM

The Makarrata Project
Midnight Oil are mourning the loss of their “brother” Bones Hillman with the bassist tragically dying of cancer as the band’s new record soars to number one.

The band announced the passing of the much-loved musician on their socials on Sunday, less than a day after the rockers had claimed No. 1 with the Makarrata Project, which features some of the finals songs Hillman would record with his musical brothers.

Born Wayne Stevens in Auckland, New Zealand, the bassist had been a member of the Australian rock band for 33 years.

“We’re grieving the loss of our brother Bones Hillman, who has passed away at his home in Milwaukee today after a cancer battle,” they wrote.

“He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade.


Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman has died. Picture: Patrick Gee

“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. Haere rā Bonesy from Jim, Martin, Peter & Rob.”

The tragedy comes as the Oil’s first new music in almost 20 years won a tightly fought contest against records by pop superstars Ariana Grande and Sam Smith to claim No. 1 on the ARIA charts this week.

The Makarrata Project, a collaboration for 16 First Nation artists, got to the top in old school fashion – their fans bought thousands of CDs.

While stream queen Ariana Grande’s latest record Positions was a leader on the streaming services, physical sales of CDs and vinyl are given greater weight than streams when calculating the chart.

The Makarrata Project is the Oils first studio record of new work to claim No. 1 in 30 years, since Blue Sky Mining in 1990.

Their last time at the summit was 23 years ago with the 20,000 Watt RSL greatest hits collection.

For their comeback record, the Oils collaborated with Indigenous artists including Jessica Mauboy, Troy Cassar-Daley, Alice Skye, Tasman Keith, Dan Sultan and Kev Carmody on songs Frist Nations, Gadigal Land and Terror Australia.

Their album’s goal – and any profits – seeks to promote the Uluru Statement from the Heart and government action on Indigenous issues.

Its arrival at the chart summit couldn’t be more timely as NAIDOC Week 2020 kicks off.

“It’s great to see this new music striking such a chord, particularly in NAIDOC Week which invites all Australians to embrace our true history,” frontman Peter Garrett said.

“Hopefully these songs and the amazing contributions of all our collaborators will get us thinking seriously about The Uluru Statement From The Heart.

“It’s a roadmap to a unified nation. If you haven’t read it yet you really should.”

Mauboy has said the album was “a cry for help, a battle cry” and she was grateful so many Australians had embraced it.

“Working with Midnight Oil on such an incredible song as First Nations is something I will never ever forget. It’s a collaboration I’m so proud of and one I know that I a lot of people have connected with,” she said.

“What this mini album stands for is so important for so many reasons, and knowing that people have embraced it this week to make it No. 1 … just means the world to all of us that have collaborated on The Makarrata Project. God bless you all,” she said in a statement.


The band showcased First Nation and Terror Australia on new music show The Sound and return to perform on Sunday night with Change The Date which features an unreleased recording from Gurrumul and Dan Sultan.

Another great oz music legend leaves us.
The 80s heralded the greatest of Oz rock live across Sydney.
I remember sneaking in as a 16 year old into the smoke filled Sydney Cove tavern or The Chevron Hotel to see all these awesome up and coming bands such as The Expression, Machinations, Eurogliders, Pseudo Echo and on and on they came. Perhaps inspired by those on the rise prior such as INXS, the Oils and The Angels who then had their eyes set on the US, Japan and UK.

Great days and times!
Rock on in the heavens Bones!

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Haha, same here. Maybe a bit later than you.

That was a great little venue.

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@Tex he was a kiwi but I get your point.
Probably for me his biggest hit was with The Swingers “Counting the Beat”.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DnMSB1prro_k&ved=2ahUKEwje9tn24vXsAhXnIbcAHd66BMoQwqsBMAt6BAgbEAg&usg=AOvVaw29uAml5Y8WfMTjAluaEBrE

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Brilliant vocals in One Country off the Blue Sky Mining album. RIP Bones.

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November 20, 2020

TERROR AUSTRALIA

Maybe Bruce Springsteen says it best.

‘…On through the houses of the dead past those fallen in their tracks Always movin’ ahead and never lookin’ back….
But the stars are burnin’ bright like some mystery uncovered
I’ll keep movin’ through the dark with you in my heart
My blood brother.’

Hours become days, days years, and years decades. What can you say about a man that you have spent more time with than your own partner, parents or siblings? Someone who you knew even better than yourself. What what you call them? Blood brother, that’s what.

To be in a band you rely on others, it doesn’t work unless you’re all present and accounted for. There’s so much love, co-dependency, brotherly friction, shared knowledge, so many storms weathered.

Terror Australia was written by Pete and Bones a long time ago. Pete remembered it and exhumed it from a cassette from the Capricornia era because it fitted the Makarrata theme perfectly.

We demoed it last year in the studio, and there were all sorts of instruments on it, none of which were helping. When I played the changes on the piano, a good way of getting to the heart of a song by clearing the air, Bones quietly said ‘that’s the way it should be, just the voice and the piano.’ I knew in an instant he was right, he said the same thing about ‘In the Valley’ years ago too. It didn’t need the cavalry charging in on it either.

When Alice Skye sang it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the control room. She gave it the necessary gravitas, and it sounded haunted and beautiful. Now you knew exactly what the song was all about, sung by someone who knew just what it meant.

Bones wouldn’t want anyone to be sad, but the tears flow regardless, despite his best intentions. I always suspected, though he didn’t wear robes (apart from hotel bathrobes) he was very Zen, living for the moment, for the wisecrack, the perfect note hit, for the smile that went on forever. Or nearly forever.

Rest In Power: Bones Hillman

Midnight Oil - Terror Australia (feat. Alice Skye) [Official Video]