Acknowledgement of Country

The NFSA acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways across Australia. 

We pay respect to their Elders, past and present. 

Would you welcome Australia's greatest rock and roll singer... Jimmy Barnes!

Michael Gudinski

Navigating the Exhibition

You can navigate through this exhibition using the dots and chapter headings left of screen.

The arrow controls at bottom left and right of screen allow you to move back and forward between slides within each chapter.

You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate.

We hope you enjoy this exhibition! 

Image credits

This slide: Courtesy Captured Live Productions

Previous slide: Courtesy Rolling Stone and Mushroom Records

An Aussie Anthem

30 Years of Working Class Man

The name Jimmy Barnes is synonymous with ‘Working Class Man’, his signature tune for over 30 years. Instantly recognisable and, as you’ll see in each clip from this NFSA compilation of live performances, still able to energise and excite a crowd.

I sang at home, I sang at church halls,

I sang at local community centres... It was always natural.

Jimmy Barnes

'We'd get on the porch and pretend we were in bands'

A Tight-knit Community With a Love of Song

In an exclusive interview with the NFSA, Jimmy recalls being exposed to good music from a very early age in his community and household.

Ten Pound Tourists

From Glasgow to Elizabeth

This relaxed TV interview with Nine's Mike Munro in 1995 cleverly interweaves photos of Jimmy as a child, footage of Cold Chisel's infamous 1981 TV Week Music Awards performance and memories he shares of Glasgow and migrating to Australia as a boy.

Memories from John Swan

John and Jim's Early Influences

Jimmy's older brother, singer John Swan, talks about their parents' role in shaping their musical influences in this excerpt from an interview conducted for the NFSA’s Oral History Program in 2009.

'It Changed My Life'

Discovering New Music

Jimmy Barnes talks about the moment he decided he wanted to be in a band in this excerpt from an exclusive interview with the NFSA.

They were the real deal... 

you just knew they were going to make it.

Vince Lovegrove

Auditioning for a Band

Forming Cold Chisel

In an exclusive interview for the NFSA, Jimmy recalls his nervous audition at the Women's Liberation Hall in Adelaide for lead singer of the band that would later become Cold Chisel.

Nightmoves reviews 'Cold Chisel'

Cold Chisel's Debut Album is 'Good Stuff'

‘Nightmoves’ was late night TV’s answer to ‘Countdown’. While their production values were low, an authoritative and positive album review on the program, like this critique of Cold Chisel’s self-titled debut, carried weight in the music industry.

Vince Lovegrove recalls the early days of the band

The Uniqueness of Cold Chisel

Vince Lovegrove, Cold Chisel's band manager early in their career, talks about what set the band apart in an oral history interview he gave to the NFSA in 2010.

Cold Chisel On The Road

The Band's Early Days and Love at First Sight

In this 1995 interview with Nine reporter Mike Munro, rough and rare early footage of a Cold Chisel gig highlights Jimmy’s wild stage persona then cleverly transitions to show Jimmy the family man with his wife Jane - a calming influence in his life.

From Newcastle to 'the Gong'

Cold Chisel on the Road to Success

In a 2001 Max TV special, we discover how the band had to balance making enough money to support themselves with building a name and a following in order to forge their way from hard-working, niche pub-rock band to critical and commercial success.

A Turning Point

Recording 'East'

Jimmy tells the NFSA how writing and recording the album 'East' was a pivotal moment for him and the band.

Giving Back to the Fans

The Circus Animals Tour

This clip from 'Cold Chisel Last Stand' featuring producer Mark Opitz, fittingly interviewed in a recording studio, drives home that Cold Chisel would never forget where they came from or the importance of their fans.

Beginning to Fragment

'We'd seen the writing on the wall'

The 1982 German tour was a critical point in Cold Chisel’s history. It was time to concede that the band was fracturing and cracks were beginning to show. However, true to form, the break-up would be on the band’s terms and they would go out on a high.

Few Australian rockers have been as universally admired and adored as Jimmy Barnes, a rasping, gravel-voiced blues belter who has come to articulate the Australian rock ethos.

Glenn A Baker (for Australian Made: The Movie)

'Australia's Prodigal Son of Rock'n'Roll'

The Crowd Favourite

This backstage footage is great to watch - rough, raw and unscripted, it brings the energy of the live event right to the movie screen. The concert footage also captures the charisma of a rock star in full command of his talent.

Behind the Scenes at Australian Made

A Backstage Chat

This casual interview with Troy Davies captures Jimmy's authenticity and lack of pretension – qualities that Australian fans love and connect with. It’s also a great insight into backstage goings-on at a large stadium concert.

Wednesday Magazine, 1989

On The Road Again... This Time With Kids

This interview is from 1980s ‘infotainment’ show ‘Wednesday Magazine’. Although it’s awkwardly shot and edited, it showcases Jimmy's skill and professionalism as an interviewee, patiently and politely engaging with the reporter across a range of topics.

Playing to a Home Crowd

New Year's Eve in Port Adelaide

Jimmy, supported on stage by Diesel, shows off his versatility to a hometown crowd in Port Adelaide on NYE 1996. Filling in the moments before the countdown to midnight, he is funny, engaging and playful and seems to be having as much fun as the crowd.

'It was painful and beautiful at the same time'

The Big Influencers

Jimmy Barnes talks about seeing live bands in his early years and reveals the one singer who was a major influence on his own on-stage persona, in this interview exclusive with the NFSA.

Back to His Roots

Journey of Rediscovery

This clip symbolises Jimmy’s career coming full circle. In ‘Soul Deeper… Songs From The Deep South’ he recalls a key moment from childhood when he realised he could play music that he had a real passion for, just like the R'n'B singers who inspired him.

'For me, it was like going to the altar'

Touring with Deep Purple

Jimmy's relentless touring schedule following the release of 'Soul Deeper... Songs From The Deep South' in 2000 included being on the road with one of his all-time favourite bands, Deep Purple, and a stint with Bon Jovi.

I was very lucky... some people

aren't as lucky. So it's the least I can do.

Jimmy Barnes

'I do charity work because I'm touched by things'

The Importance of Giving Back

In an exclusive interview with the NFSA, we asked Jimmy about the many causes and charities that he humbly supports and why giving back is so important to him.

2009 Victorian Bushfire Appeal

Some Greatest Hits To Lend A Hand

This short clip perfectly captures an icon of the music industry genuinely wanting to help those in need, with little interest in self-promotion. Jimmy's integrity and authenticity really shine through here.

Getting to Work for AIDS Research

HMV's New Recruit

At a time when misinformation had created much fear and prejudice around AIDS, Jimmy recognised a cause in need of support and threw his star power behind efforts to raise money for AIDS research at the 1990 World AIDS Day ‘Shop Until You Drop’ event.

The Stars Come Out for Andy Durant

'Last of The Riverboats' with Mick Pealing

This clip shows the camaraderie that existed within the music industry at the time of this benefit, as the cream of Australia's music talent came out to honour the 'Stars' singer-songwriter who died in 1980, and to raise funds for cancer research.

A Healing Project for Bushfire Victims

Planting a Flame Tree in Canberra

In a brief news clip Jimmy reveals a personal connection with Canberra as he’s invited to plant a flame tree at the National Arboretum in 2011, and he explains his eagerness to support this local initiative that arose from the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

Environmental Warning

A Pitch To Save The Planet

In 'Down to Earth' (1989), a documentary produced by Network Ten, Jimmy joined a cast of high-profile celebrities to push a strong environmental message during a time of increasing public awareness about the human impact on the planet.

Artists for Recovery

Recording 'Hurt' for The Buttery Rehab Organisation

Jimmy’s recording of the song ‘Hurt’ in 2008 is yet another example of his altruism - being recorded specifically to raise money for The Buttery. The lyrics in their entirety tell a tale of self-realisation, despair and the consequences of addiction.

Doing It For The Kids

Raising Funds for The Children's Hospital

Jimmy performs at the MCG to celebrate 25 years of Mushroom - Australia’s premier record label. Proceeds from 'The Concert of the Century' were donated to the Children's Hospital and the concert itself shows Jimmy at his energetic and electrifying best.

Call me sentimental,

but I love having my kids nearby.

Jimmy Barnes

'She never ceases to amaze me'

Jane and The Kids

This Max Sessions clip from 2007 gives a glimpse into Jimmy’s family life with behind-the-scenes footage added into this warm and engaging interview. He’s earnest and sincere when talking about his family and, as always, reveals no ‘rock star’ posings.

Father and Son

David Campbell Interviews his dad

This segment from ‘Mornings’ is fun to watch, not least for Sonia Kruger doing her best to keep up with the lively and endearing father-son banter. The inclusion of intimate family photos adds to the interest.

Dad and Daughter

On The Farm With Toddler Mahalia

This short clip from ‘Cold Chisel Last Stand’ successfully shows a softer side to Jimmy; however it’s only a brief glimpse that leaves us wanting more, as it cuts back to live concert footage.

The NRL's Unofficial Anthem

'Simply The Best' Dad and Daughter Duet

Jimmy and Mahalia perform a passionate rendition of this NRL anthem at the 2001 Grand Final. There is a real sweetness to this clip, as the cameras manage to catch Jimmy’s proud, beaming smiles when he watches his daughter singing.

Soul Brothers Back Together

A Duet with Big Brother John

The live concert editing in this clip from ‘Live At The Port, NYE 1996’ deftly captures the mood of this song and the bond between John Swan and Jimmy as the camera slowly pans over the crowd and back to the brothers performing a soul classic.

Singer, Storyteller and Proud Dad

The Tin Lids are all Grown Up

This 2007 Max Sessions clip captures Jimmy’s versatility. With his kids behind him on stage, he’s in his element as singer, storyteller and proud dad in this live and intimate performance. He is thoroughly engaging and the audience is clearly captivated.


Did you know...

Jimmy joined his primary school choir but was asked to leave because he was too loud and didn't blend in.
Jimmy's very first band was called Tarkus. They played only a handful of live shows over a few months in early 1973.
Jimmy was offered the job of frontman for the band Van Halen after their singer David Lee Roth left in 1985.


With very special thanks to Jimmy and Jane Barnes.

The NFSA would like to acknowledge John Watson, Rina Ferris, Louise O'Malley, Mushroom Records, Liberation Music, Warner Music Australia, John McLean, Captured Live Productions Pty Ltd, Rogue Nation Pty Ltd, AIDS Trust of Australia, Rolling Stone Magazine, Seven Network, Nine Network, Network Ten and the National Rugby League.

Thanks also to John Swan, Mark Opitz and Holly Lovegrove.

  • Exhibition Producer: Mel Bondfield
  • Multimedia Producer: Rachael Priddel
  • Design elements: Cameron Emerson-Elliott
  • Licensing and rights: Bronwyn Dowdall, Anna Yates
  • Additional copy: Adam Blackshaw
  • Oral History Curator: Bronwyn Murphy
  • Video services: Terry Stuetz, Andrew Boyer, Richard Vorobieff
  • Document photography: Darren Weinert
  • Interviewer: Anthony O'Grady


For more on Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel, explore our curated collections.

You'll find rarely seen interviews, documents, live performances, audio clips, posters and photographs from a career spanning more than four decades with Cold Chisel and as a solo artist.