Joy McKean, the widow of Australian country music legend Slim Dusty who found her own acclaim as an award-winning songwriter, has died of cancer aged 93.
EMI records announced McKean’s death in a statement released on Friday.
‘Joy passed away peacefully last night with family by her side after a long battle with cancer,’ the statement said. ‘She will be remembered as a pioneer in Australian music.’
McKean was a talented singer and musician who penned many of her husband’s most famous songs including Lights on the Hill and The Biggest Disappointment.
Joy McKean, the widow of Australian country music legend Slim Dusty and an acclaimed songwriter in her own right, has died of cancer aged 93. The couple is pictured together
She won the first Golden Guitar awarded at the inaugural Tamworth Country Music Festival, of which she was a founder, in 1973 for Lights on the Hill.
McKean’s musical partnership with Dusty produced more than 100 albums, 45 Golden Guitars and total sales of more than 8 million.
She is survived by her children Anne Kirkpatrick and David Kirkpatrick – both accomplished singer-songwriters – as well as four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Slim Dusty, whose real name was David Gordon Kirkpatrick, died in 2003 aged 76.
McKean was born in Singleton in the New South Wales Hunter Valley and raised on a dairy farm. She was introduced to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family by her parents.
McKean was a multi-award winning songwriter and musician who wrote many of her husband’s most famous songs including The Biggest Disappointment and Lights on the Hill
As a child McKean learned to play steel guitar, piano and accordion, and took up yodeling with younger sister Heather.
When Joy was 18 she and Heather began performing as the McKean Sisters and had their own half-hour radio show.
The McKean Sisters had recorded hits Gymkhana Yodel and Yodel Down The Valley by the time Joy met Dusty.
They married in 1951, while Heather wed country star Reg Lindsay.
Dusty found international success with his 1957 song Pub With No Beer and was the biggest name in Australian country music until his death.
McKean wrote Walk A Country Mile, Indian Pacific, Kelly’s Offsider and The Angel of Goulburn Hill for her husband and remained his manager for more than 50 years.
She helped create the Country Music Association of Australia and was chairwoman of the Slim Dusty Foundation which built the Slim Dusty Centre in the singer’s home town of Kempsey.
In 2021, McKean won the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music at the APRAs.
The McKean Sisters were inducted into the Australian Roll of Renown for country performers in 1983 and Joy was given the same honour as a solo artist in 2020.