Rolf Harris, Disgraced Entertainer Who Once Dominated the Airwaves In U.K. And Australia, Dies at 93
Rolf Harris, the disgraced entertainer who, prior to his downfall, enjoyed hits in the U.K. and his homeland, Australia, and who was once commissioned to paint Queen Elizabeth II, has died at the age of 93.
Born March 30, 1930 in Perth, Australia, Harris’ life and career will be remembered in two halves.
At the peak of his celebrity, following a relocation to the U.K., Harris enjoyed a-list status on both sides of the globe, a star of TV and popular music, an enthusiast for the wobble board and didgeridoo who had a string of hit singles, and collaborations with The Wiggles and others.
Harris was, for decades, the face of British Paints in Australia, and was lampooned in the popular ‘70s and early ‘80s British comedy series The Goodies. For millions of Australians and Britons, he was a broadcast star from their youth.
He enjoyed a string of U.K. chart hits including “Two Little Boys” (Columbia), which has the distinction of being the very last No. 1 in Britain in the 1960s. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” reached No. 9 in Britain back in 1960, and he had a No. 3 hit with “Sun Arise” in 1962. He enjoyed another U.K. top 10 in 1993, when his cover of “Stairway to Heaven,” a spin-off from the Australian TV show Money or the Gun, reached No. 7.
The Guinness World Records book of British Hit Singles had summed-up Harris as a “lovable Australian musician, artist and presenter.”
Along the way, he was elevated into the highest circles, by being named as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
In 2005, another honor, when he was tapped by the BBC to create an oil painting of the Queen for the occasion of her 80th birthday, the sittings for which were captured for a documentary. The following year, in 2006, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In 2013, Harris was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), in recognition for his distinguished service to the performing and visual arts, to charitable organizations and to international relations through the promotion of Australian culture, following his induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008.
When his downfall was complete, Harris’ name had been scrubbed from those history books.
His spectacular fall from grace began in 2013, when Harris was questioned and arrested police under Operation Yewtree, the investigation into sexual abuse among members of the English media elite, including the late Jimmy Savile.
Following a trial in 2014, Harris was found guilty of various indecent assaults between 1968 and 1986, and was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. He was released in 2017, but denied any wrongdoing and never issued an apology to his victims.
According to the BBC, Harris passed May 10, and has already been buried, though details have been kept under lock and key until now. His death certificate, the Corporation reports, notes that he died from neck cancer and “frailty of old age” at his home in Bray, Berkshire.
A statement from his family reads: “This is to confirm that Rolf Harris recently died peacefully surrounded by family and friends and has now been laid to rest. They ask that you respect their privacy. No further comment will be made.”