Remembering the lives of media icon Harold Mitchell (81) and rock drummer Jimmy Van Eaton (86)

The passing of two influential figures has plunged the media and music industries into mourning: Harold Mitchell, a titan in advertising and media, and Jimmy Van Eaton, one of the Sun Record's most prominent musicians.

Both Mitchell and Van Eaton will be remembered not only for their professional achievements but also for their profound influence on those who had the privilege of crossing paths with them.

As their respective industries mourn their loss, they also celebrate the enduring legacies these remarkable individuals have left behind.

Media veteran and advertising figure Harold Mitchell passes away​

The Australian media and advertising industry is mourning the loss of one of its most influential figures, Harold Mitchell, who passed away at the age of 81.

His death has sent ripples through the community, prompting an outpouring of tributes from high-profile individuals and organisations that recognised his significant contributions to the field and his philanthropic efforts.

Mr Mitchell passed away last Saturday, February 10, due to complications from knee surgery.

His journey began in 1976 when he founded Mitchell and Partners. His vision and business acumen propelled the company to become Australia's largest media buying agency, setting a benchmark for the industry.

Harold Mitchell passed away at the age of 81. Image source: @billshortenmp/X (Twitter)

His role as Executive Chairman of Aegis Media Pacific was just one of the many hats he wore throughout a storied career that spanned several decades.

Beyond his business success, Mitchell was a titan of philanthropy. His personal foundation, the Mitchell Institute, channelled millions of dollars into over 100 different organisations, reflecting his deep commitment to the arts, education, and sports.

His generosity knew no bounds, and his impact was felt across various sectors, including his support for Timor-Leste and Indigenous communities.

In 2013, his lifelong dedication to enriching Australian society was recognised when he was nominated for Australian of the Year. This honour was a testament to his influence and the esteem in which he was held by his peers and the public alike.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led the tributes, acknowledging that Mitchell had made Australia 'a better place' and noting that he would be 'one of the many who will miss his great company’.

This sentiment was echoed by Eddie McGuire, who described Mitchell as 'one of Victoria's finest,' highlighting his fierce independence and loyalty to those he believed in.

Victoria University Chancellor Dr Steve Bracks expressed the university community's deep sadness at Mitchell's passing.

‘Harold Mitchell's generosity and commitment, not just to our University, but to the people of Timor-Leste, has been unparalleled,’ he stated.

He also praised Mr Mitchell's profound interest in the future of Timor-Leste, which was recognised with the Collar of Timor-Leste award in 2023.

As we bid farewell to Harold Mitchell, we celebrate his life and the indelible mark he left on the industry and the nation. His passing is a loss to many, but his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of media professionals and philanthropists.

Let us honour his memory by striving to emulate his dedication to excellence and his unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.

You can watch 7News Melbourne’s coverage of the story here:

Source: 7NEWS Melbourne/Facebook​

Iconic drummer behind Sun Records' biggest hits, Jimmy Van Eaton, passes away​

The world of rock 'n' roll has lost one of its pioneers. JM 'Jimmy' Van Eaton, the legendary drummer who provided the rhythmic backbone for some of the biggest hits from Sun Records, has passed away at the age of 86.

Known for his bluesy playing style and his ability to drive the beat of early rock hits, Van Eaton's influence on the genre is undeniable.

His family confirmed that Mr Van Eaton, who had been grappling with health issues last year, passed away last Friday, February 9.

Born and raised in the USA, Mr Van Eaton began his musical journey playing the trumpet in a school band, but it wasn't long before the allure of the drums drew him in.

Jimmy Van Eaton passed away at the age of 86. Image source: The Obit Patrol/Facebook

'It was an instrument that intrigued me,' he said in a 2015 interview.

His fascination with the drums led him to form his own rock 'n' roll band, The Echoes, and it was their demo recording at Sam Phillips' studio that would change his life forever.

At Sun Records, Van Eaton found himself in the company of future legends.

He played behind Jerry Lee Lewis on the classic 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' and Billy Lee Riley on 'Red Hot'. He also collaborated with Bill Justis and Charlie Rich, adding his distinctive drumming style to their recordings.

Sam Phillips, Founder of Sun Records, once said, 'The hardest man to play with in the world was Jerry Lee. I told every musician to stay out of this man’s way. The one exception was JM Van Eaton.'

Throughout the 1950s, Van Eaton was a core member of the musicians that performed at Sun Records.

However, as the 1960s rolled in, he drifted away from the music business. It wasn't until the 1970s, following the death of Elvis Presley and the subsequent resurgence of interest in rockabilly, that Mr Van Eaton returned to performing.

In the early 1980s, Mr Van Eaton began a new career in the municipal bond business, a role he would maintain for four decades.

But music was never far from his heart. He was part of the team that played the music for the film 'Great Balls of Fire', a biopic about Jerry Lee Lewis. He also released a solo album in the late 1990s.

Van Eaton's contributions to the music industry have been recognised with his induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

In addition to his wife, Mr Van Eaton is survived by a son and daughter.

You can watch his 2017 ‘Red Hot’ performance here:

Source: Rock and Roll Forever/Youtube​

Key Takeaways
  • Influential advertising and media veteran Harold Mitchell passed away at age 81 following complications from knee surgery.
  • Mitchell was recognised for his philanthropy and was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2013.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other notable figures paid tribute to Mitchell's positive impact on Australia and his philanthropic work in various sectors, including the arts, education,
  • J.M. 'Jimmy' Van Eaton, a rock 'n' roll drummer who was influential at Sun Records, has died at age 86.
  • He was recognised for his work with iconic musicians such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley and was known for his bluesy drumming style.
  • He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and although he left the music industry for a time, he returned to performing and recording later in his life.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time. May they rest in peace.
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