John Lewis Schumann (born 18 May 1953) is an Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist from Adelaide. He is best known as the lead singer for the folk group Redgum, with their chart-topping hit "I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)", a song exploring the psychological and medical side-effects of serving in the Australian forces during the Vietnam War. The song's sales assisted Vietnam Veterans during the 1983 Royal Commission into the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants employed during the war. Schumann was an Australian Democrats candidate in the 1998 Federal election, narrowly failing to unseat Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for the Division of Mayo.
Since 2005 he has been performing as part of John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew, including fellow ex-Redgum member Hugh McDonald.
Schumann was born on 18 May 1953 and attended Flinders University studying Philosophy, English and Drama for his Bachelor of Arts. In 1975 he contributed to a radical politics in art project, convened by Professor Brian Medlin with fellow students Michael Atkinson and Verity Truman. The three students went on to form political folk band Redgum and began performing in local pubs and campuses. An 'underground recording' of their music was made at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) studios in Adelaide by Darc Cassidy - the tapes went on to become popular on campuses across Australia and on independent radio. Chris Timms (also from Flinders University) joined the group in 1976 and they toured to Melbourne as a part-time group. Schumann was by then teaching English and Drama at Marion High School and performing on weekends and school holidays. By December 1980, they decided to become a full-time band. Schumann wrote their biggest hits including "Long Run", "The Last Frontier", "I Was Only Nineteen" (March 1983) and "I've Been to Bali Too" (1984). In 1985 Redgum toured overseas performing at major festivals across England and Europe including the Edinburgh Festival and in war torn Belfast in Northern Ireland. The band had a strong following in Scandinavia.
1985-1993: Early solo music career
Schumann left Redgum (late 1985) due to continual pressure to tour and to spend more time with his young family in the Adelaide Hills. He embarked upon a solo career with CBS, where he released several records, including Etched in Blue (1987), and a children's record, Looby Loo (1989). The 1987 single "Borrowed Ground" from Etched in Blue was given the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) Most Performed Australasian Country Work Award in 1988. In 1992 he recorded a single for Sony entitled "Eyes on Fire", this was followed by an album for Columbia Records in 1993, True Believers.
2001-current: later career
In 2005 Schumann invited a number of musicians (including ex-Redgum members Hugh McDonald and Michael Atkinson) to play and sing on an album, Lawson, which comprises songs Schumann wrote based on poems by Australian poet Henry Lawson. Lawson was credited to John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew and released by ABC Music.
Schumann and Redgum were bought back to public attention in 2006 when Australian Hip-Hop group The Herd covered "I Was Only 19" with Schumann supplying some vocals. On 18 August 2006, John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew performed in Vũng Tàu, Vietnam, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tân. The concert was broadcast nationally by ABC radio.
In 2007 John Schumann and The Vagabond Crew provided the music for a stage play, "Lawson", starring Max Cullen as Henry Lawson. After refusing to appear live on the 1980s ABC music-TV show, Countdown, Schumann appeared in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series in Australia in August and September 2007. He sang the Redgum hit "I Was Only 19" only. From late 2007, John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew have appeared at major music festivals around Australia. Schumann signed a new multi-album deal with ABC Music and Behind the Lines, an album of songs related to Australians at war, was released in August 2008.
Schumann has performed for Australian forces overseas several times. In December 2009 he visited East Timor to play for Australian and New Zealand troops stationed there, in September–October 2011 he played for Australian troops in Afghanistan and in July 2013 he played for Australian troops and Australian Federal Police in the Solomon Islands.
In 2015, Schumann recorded "Kokoda – Only The Brave Ones", a duet with Lee Kernaghan for his album Spirit of the Anzacs.
See Redgum for earlier recordings.
- Etched in Blue (1987)
- John Schumann Goes Looby-Loo (1989)
- True Believers (1993)
- Portrait: The Very Best of John Schumann (2002)
- Lawson - as John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew (2005)
- Gelignite Jack - (2007) (a best of album)
- Behind the Lines - as John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew (2008)