Sad times for fans of legendary Australian 80s band Men at Work. It seems that their most famous hit “Down Under” may have had elements “borrowed” from an old Australian children’s song.
The segment in question is the famous flute riff that starts the song off in style and puts you in the Australian mood. The band is being sued because said flute riff was allegedly stolen from “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree,” a song written in 1934 by Marion Sinclair for the Girl Guides.
The Men at Work song was a number one hit in the U.S. in 1981 (also in Australia and the U.K). With its wacky lyrics and comical video, “Down Under” brought fun elements of Australian culture into mainstream America. Examples of its lyrical genius include “Traveling in a fried-out combie / On a hippie trail, head full of zombie” and “I said, do you speak-a my language? / He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich”.
While it’s disappointing to hear that the iconic flute riff was potentially stolen from another song, nothing can take away the joy “Down Under” has brought to millions since it came out. It’s fun, it’s Australian, and it’s catchy. In fact, it will probably be in my head for the entire weekend.