Kaurna Country (Adelaide), November 14, 2019.
It was the last session on the dying day of the oncology conference. I sat down near the front of the crowded auditorium. Wiping the remnants of afternoon tea from my Movember mo, I tuned into the armchair convo between Adam Spencer and his interviewee: Kirk Pengilly. Clad in their smart casual clothes, the star pair proceeded to shift the proceedings from scientific studies to stories and songs. I listened as Kirk opened up about the lows and highs of his 40-odd years as a vocal and multi-instrumental member of influential Aussie rock band INXS. I listened as Kirk opened up about his former bandmate and my namesake, Michael: a man who, much like me, was a shy kid yet, much unlike me, became a global rock star. I listened as Kirk opened up about a part of himself: his diagnosis of life-threatening prostate cancer and the subsequent removal of his prostate via radical prostatectomy. I listened as Kirk shared further life stories, including anecdotes about his supportive wife, pro surfer Layne Beachley. I felt Kirk spoke as both a survivor of cancer and a supporter of men’s health across many domains, from physical to emotional. I felt that, if I’d looked around, I’d have seen a crowd of conference delegates fully attuned to the conversation. As I pondered Movember with ears wide open, Kirk Pengilly proceeded to close the proceedings with an acoustic set of INXS staples. He closed with the same song I recalled resounding through St Andrew’s Cathedral in late spring 1997, when Kirk and his bandmates helped a grieving brother carry Michael’s casket into dark daylight.
Stereo Story #652
Photo courtesy of Eric Algra, from his just-released book Rock’n’Roll City.