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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE aka John Cave

 

John Stanley Cave better known under his stage name of “William Shakespeare” was born 19 November 1948 in Sydney, New South Wales. Fame that comes out of nowhere and disappears just as fast may be the cruelest of all. A star at 26, finished at 27 and lived until 61. Cave had 34 years to sit back and reflect on what could have been, but never was. At the height of his career, his alter ego was a Countdown regular and a famous addition to Australian Pop.parents ran a fruit and vegetable shop. Cave’s father died when he was 14 and his mother when he was 21. He was blessed with an extraordinarily high soprano vocal range and began singing at the age of 16. John for a time did the pub/club circuit for a mere $30 per night. His popularity amongst the gay community was at a high, and this led people to think he was also gay, but Cave constantly declared throughout his life he was straight.

He then became a vocalist for a band called “the Amazons”. The band consisted of Nick Barlow (guitar) Harry Brus (bass guitar) Chris Carroll (guitar) and Daily Carroll on drums.

One day, Cave was even offered to be the lead singer of AC/DC, though at the time of the offer, they didn’t really have much of a cult following. Cave asked his manager for advice, and his manager responded with “Do you want to sing in a bloody pub all your life, or do you want to be a star? Well that was a no-brainer, he wanted to be a star, so the offer was declined.

It was the early 70’s and Shakespeare was at Albert Studios when he was discovered by songwriters Vanda and Young. They were recording a song they had wrote for an artist who couldn’t reach the notes required, when they asked Cave if he’s like to give it a shot. They then gave him a contract and began the process of morphing him into his character of glam rocker “William Shakespeare”. Cave came up with the name, and his costumes at the time cost around $350 / $400+ to have made.

He soon had two number one hits, “My Little Angel” and “Can’t stop myself from loving you” which peaked nationally at #2 and a debut album that sold 375,000 copies.

Six hours prior to performing at the Darwin Concert Appeal Caves front part of his house burnt down. He knew about it, but still went on to perform that day. And how did the fire start? Cave went to bed and fell asleep with a lit cigarette. When he finally woke, the room was full of smoke, and visibility was next to none.

In that front room were two single beds. Cave finally made it outside and grabbed a bucket of water ran back into the room where the fire was burning through his mattress and threw the bucket of water right into the middle of the flames which didn’t put it out but actually added fuel to what was already there, as once the water hit hard in the middle, the outer flames threw out and engulfed more of the mattress. So with flames now erupting and spreading at a fast rate, Cave grabs the mattress and tries to get it out the front door, but before he could make it out the door, the flames had ignited the other mattress in the room. By this time, Cave was so overcome by smoke inhalation, and there was nothing more he could do other than wake the neighbor’s who were sleeping at 3.00 – 3.30 that morning. In the two minutes it took to raise the alarm, upon returning the whole front of the house including the front porch was engulfed in flames. He felt terrible after his ordeal, but as he said later in a press conference, he had to perform, as he now had first hand experience of what it was like to loose your home, just like all those he was to perform for at the benefit concert.

Like most rock stars, John Cave was not immune to the advances of an over eager fans, and one 15 year old Fan Club President in particular which was later to haunt him for the rest of his life. Caves recollection of the turn of events that night are as follows. This little girl went up to his hotel room to ask for an autograph, which he complied and she left, the next day he was woken up by two burly detectives at quarter to nine asking Cave to accompany them down to Russell Street Police Station. Cave was scared stiff, as in his own words, all she did was come up for an autograph, and he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. When he was told she was only 15 and a half years old and claimed sexual interference, he said she looked more 19 / 20 years and had he have known that, he would have insisted that she be accommodated with someone else as a witness to what actually took place in that room which was, that she just got an autograph. Regardless, Cave was charged and later convicted of carnal knowledge with a minor.

A year later his career was over. It was then that Cave began his long painful decline. Over the years when interviewed, he would profess to having suffered severe depression as the result of a nervous breakdown. He began drinking alcohol and self medicating to escape his personal torment and demons.

He was admitted to the notorious Chelmsford Private Hospital, and was treated with Deep Sleep Therapy (in combination with electroconvulsive therapy and other therapies) for three weeks. Though when he woke up, he couldn’t get out as he’d lost the ability to move said Lindy Morrison, national co-ordinator of “Support Act Limited” a benevolent fund for professional musicians.

After his stint in Chelmsford, his fear then turned to being institutionalized in some kind of Psychiatric Institution. His depression deepened and his alcohol intake increased. He had very few people he could turn to as he was an only child and by this stage in his life, both parents had passed on.

By the 90’s he’d become destitute and was living out of his Mini Minor car. By 2000, the car was gone and he lived in a ticket booth of a sports oval opposite the St George Leagues Club. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the people at the club, Cave would have been under a bridge or on a park bench somewhere. They ensured he had a roof over his head, a meal for breakfast and watched over him.

It was the staff that put Cave onto Lindy Morrison after witnessing his appalling living conditions.

He was finally relocated and given a government flat in Riverwood, and was cared for by his neighbor Rhyse, an 83 year old great great grandmother not related but concerned for his welfare.

Cave sold lots of records, that’s for sure, but they were all written by others. He never stood to gain any royalties from the music he made and when the gigs dried up, so did his income. His destitution isn’t a usual situation for musicians to find themselves in, though with the conviction earlier, most felt Cave just gave up.

Cave passed away suddenly on 5 October 2010 at age 61.

Lindy Morrison and Support Act assisted Shakespeare one last time, persuading his old record company, Albert Productions , to pay for his funeral. It was important for her to acknowledge that he was a talented and much loved artist, and he deserved the utmost respect in both life, and death.

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