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From Little Things Big Things Grow

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Title: From Little Things Big Things Grow  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Leaps and Bounds (song), Urthboy, Gurindji strike, Indigenous Australians, 1993 singles
Collection: 1991 Songs, 1993 Singles, Emi Records Singles, Paul Kelly (Australian Musician) Songs, Songs Written by Paul Kelly (Australian Musician)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

From Little Things Big Things Grow

"From Little Things Big Things Grow"
Single by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly
from the album Bloodlines
A-side "From Little Things Big Things Grow"
B-side "Freedom"
Released 1993 (Australia)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1991 Paul Kelly & the Messengers version
1993 Kev Carmody version
2008 GetUp Mob version
Genre rock, protest
Length 6:51
Label EMI, Festival
Writer(s) Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly
Producer(s) Alan Thorne, Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly & the Messengers version

"From Little Things Big Things Grow" is a protest song recorded by Australian artists Paul Kelly & The Messengers on their 1991 album Comedy, and by Kev Carmody (with Kelly) on his 1993 album Bloodlines. It was released as a CD single by Carmody and Kelly in 1993 but failed to chart. The song was co-written by Kelly and Carmody,[1] and is based on the story of the Gurindji strike and Vincent Lingiari as part of the Indigenous Australian struggle for land rights and reconciliation.[2][3] Kelly and Carmody performed the song together on 5 November 2014 at the public memorial service for former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who is the "tall stranger" referred to in the song.

Cover of Getup Mob's version of the song

On 2008-05-04, a cover version by The GetUp Mob, part of the GetUp! advocacy group, peaked at #4 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles charts.[4] This version included samples from speeches by Prime Ministers Paul Keating in 1992, and Kevin Rudd in 2008;[5] it featured vocals by both Carmody and Kelly, as well as other Australian artists.


  • Background 1
  • Other versions 2
  • Track listing 3
  • Personnel 4
    • Paul Kelly and the Messengers 1991 version 4.1
    • Kev Carmody 1993 version 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The song was co-written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody,[1] and is based on the story of The Gurindji Strike and Vincent Lingiari.[2] It describes how the Gurindji people's claim sparked the Indigenous land rights movement. The protest led to the Commonwealth Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Act gave Indigenous people freehold title to traditional lands in the Northern Territory and the power of veto over mining and development on those lands. In 1975, 3,236 km² of land was handed back to the Gurindji people.[6] Carmody described writing the song:

"Paul Kelly and I had gone away on a camping trip in about '91 or something and we just kind of pulled it out around the campfire. Paul had a good chord progression and I thought it would be good to tell a little story over it. So, by about 2 o'clock in the morning, we had a six-minute song."[7]
— Kev Carmody, 2008

It was recorded by Paul Kelly and the Messengers for their 1991 album Comedy released by Mushroom Records. Kelly included the song on his solo albums, Live, May 1992 and Songs from the South: Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits in 1997. Carmody recorded it on his 1993 album Bloodlines supplying vocals, guitar and didgeridoo, Kelly supplied vocals, guitar and harmonica, with numerous other musicians.[8] This Carmody and Kelly version was released as a single in 1993 but did not chart. Also in 1993, an SBS television documentary, Bloodbrothers, examined Carmody and his music including this song.[9][10]

Other versions

The song was performed on 7 July 2007 on the Australian leg of Live Earth by Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody, John Butler, and Missy Higgins.[11][12] The song could have been considered "the event's anthem."[13] Rolling Stone cited the performance as a highlight, stating the "whole crowd sung along – all eleven verses."[14]

The GetUp Mob, organised by advocacy group GetUp!, released a version of the song on 21 April 2008.[15] This featured elements of the apology to the Stolen Generations, made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008, as well as former Prime Minister Paul Keating's Redfern Speech on 10 December 1992.[5] The track features Carmody and Kelly, as well as other prominent Australian artists (including Urthboy, Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, Radical Son, Jane Tyrrell, Dan Sultan, Joel Wenitong and Ozi Batla). This version peaked at #4 on the ARIA singles chart after its 28 April 2008 release,[4][16] and #2 on both the Australian Chart and Digital Track Chart.[17] The video for the song was produced by ARIA winner Hackett Films, and features John Butler, Leah Purcell, Pat Dodson and Anthony Mundine. Kev Carmody described the 2008 version:[5]

"This contemporised version of the song transforms us from a negative concept of the past to the positive possibilities of the future."[18]
— Kev Carmody, 2008

A version of the song performed by The Waifs also appears on the 2007 Kev Carmody tribute album, Cannot Buy My Soul. The song is also featured on their 2009 Live from the Union of Soul album where it is co-performed with John Butler.

In November 2009 Triple J held a tribute concert for Paul Kelly in Melbourne, with John Butler, Missy Higgins and Dan Sultan performing this song. A recording from the concert, Before Too Long, was released in 2010.

In 2013 Joan Baez, on her first Australian tour for 28 years, included it in her concerts to great applause.

Track listing

  1. "From Little Things Big Things Grow" (Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody)[1] - 6:51
  2. "Freedom" (Bart Willoughby, Carmody) - 6:49


Paul Kelly and the Messengers 1991 version

Paul Kelly and the Messengers

Additional musicians

  • Paul Burton — bass guitar
  • Shelagh, Mairead and Deirdre Hannan — vocals
  • Ray Pereira — percussion, cardboard box
  • Ian Simpson — guitar, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel
  • Ernie Dingo - Didgeridoo

Recording details

  • Producer — Alan Thorne, Paul Kelly
  • Engineer — Alan Thorne
    • Assistant engineer — David Mackie, Tristin Norwell
  • Recorded & mixed — at Trafalgar Studio, Sydney

Kev Carmody 1993 version

Additional musicians

  • Steve Berry — guitar
  • Murray Cook — piano, keyboards
  • Leroy Cummins — lead guitar
  • Salley Dastey, Lou Bennet, Amy Saunders, Will Hogg, Kirsten Mackenzie, Melanie Shanahan — vocals
  • Brenda Gifford, Marlene Cummins — saxophone
  • John Gillies — drums, computer sequencing
  • John Lacey — didgeridoo, sound effects
  • Vanessa Lucas — bass guitar
  • Shan Moynihan — violoncello
  • Andrew O'Phee — guitars, mandolin, vocals
  • Claes Pearce — violin, viola, vocals
  • John Tebbitt, Martin Cilea — computer sequencing

Recording details

  • Recorded — at Megaphon Studios, Electric Avenue and Music Farm.


  1. ^ a b c "Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA)".   Note: requires user to input title, e.g. FROM LITTLE THINGS BIG THINGS GROW
  2. ^ a b History - Transcripts: The Gujindji Strike"George Negus Tonight".  
  3. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: From Little Things Big Things Grow on australianscreen online
  4. ^ a b """The GetUp Mob - "From Little Things Big Things Grow. Australian Charts Portal. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  5. ^ a b c Edwards, Anna (2008-04-22). "Single samples Rudd, Keating".  
  6. ^ "Blood Brothers – From Little Things Big Things Grow". Australian Screen (National Film & Screen Archive). Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  7. ^ Dunstan, Robert. "Kev Carmody". Rip It Up!. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  8. ^ sound recording"Bloodlines". Music Australia. 2001-01-24. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  9. ^ Harris, Craig. "Kev Carmody Biography".  
  10. ^ """Blood Brothers – "From Little Things Big Things Grow. Australian Screen (National Film & Television Archive). Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  11. ^ "Crowded House Stars As Live Earth Begins In Sydney".  
  12. ^ Jolson, Jeff (2007-07-07). "First Live Earth Reviews: Australia and Japan". Hollywood Today. 
  13. ^ "Musicians take the bus to Live Earth".  
  14. ^ Lander, Dan (2007-07-07). "International Report: Live Earth Sydney".  
  15. ^ From Little Things Big Things Grow" by The GetUp Mob""".  
  16. ^ "The GetUp Mob - From Little Things Big Things Grow". Australian Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  17. ^ "Song of Reconciliation debuts at #4". 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  18. ^ "Rudd apology leads 'Little Things' remix".  

External links

  • Paul Kelly Official website lyrics
  • Kev Carmody Official website lyrics
  • Live Earth performance on YouTube
  • Listen to a clip from 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' and read more about it on australianscreen online
  • 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2010
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