Max Merritt, the New Zealand-born ARIA Hall of Fame artist behind the 1975 hit ‘Slipping Away’, died in an LA hospital yesterday (September 24) following a long battle with Goodpasture Syndrome. He was 79.
Merritt’s manager Wal Bishop confirmed the news in a statement on Friday (September 25), writing that he “had been on dialysis three days every week since he fell ill back in 2007”.
“He really put up a great fight and will be sadly missed by all that knew and loved him”.
Goodpasture Syndrome is a rare and serious auto-immune disease in which the body mistakenly produces antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys, per John Hopkins Medicine.
After Merritt received his diagnosis in 2007, he found it difficult to afford his hospital fees. Bishop organised a Concert for Max on October 21 of that year at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne, with performances from Daryl Braithwaite, John Paul Young, James Reyne, Ross Wilson and more which raised over $200,000.
Merritt was then inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008 by Glenn A. Baker, and performed ‘Slippin’ Away’ with Kasey and Bill Chambers. During the ceremony, Merritt was moved to tears. He has mostly been unable to perform for the last 13 years due to his health issues.
Merritt was born in Christchurch on April 30, 1941, and formed Max Merritt and The Meteors in 1956 at the age of just 15. They quickly found local popularity playing at a venue called The Teenage Club, making beat pop similar to the early material of The Easybeats.
The band’s career began to gain serious traction when they moved to Sydney in 1965, appearing on Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing Sing Sing television show and supporting a touring Rolling Stones.
In a serious car accident on the way to a gig in regional Morwell in 1967, Merritt lost his right eye while other members sustained serious permanent injuries. They were out of action for a year.
In the 1970s the band would relocate to London where they found their greatest success with the single ‘Slipping Away’, but had effectively disbanded by 1977 due to fading popularity. Merritt would go on to sustain a popular solo career in the US, where he stayed for the rest of his life.
Over his career, he released or was involved in 16 studio albums. Merritt is survived by his daughter Kelli, son Josh and three grandchildren.