Australian Flautist HamAustralian Flautist Ham_Men At Work flautist Greg Ham struggled to come to terms with the implications of a messy plagiarism case in the months before his death, one of his closest friends has confirmed.
Ham's body was found in his home in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton North when friends went to check on him late on Thursday morning.
A post-mortem examination was completed on Friday afternoon with authorities ruling his death as non-suspicious.
This morning Men At Work frontman Colin Hay told ABC Local Radio that Ham had been "hit very hard" by a court's ruling that the band plagiarised the distinctive flute riff in their worldwide hit Down Under.
Ham, who joined the band in 1979, played the riff which a court ruled had been lifted from Kookaburra, a song which was written in 1934 by Australian schoolteacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides competition.
Men At Work's record label, EMI Songs Australia, and Down Under songwriters Hay and Ron Strykert, were ordered to pay 5 per cent of royalties earned from the song since 2002 and from its future earnings.
This morning Hay, who had previously issued an emotional statement paying tribute to Ham as a "beautiful, funny man" whom he "loved very much", said his friend had been badly hurt by the failure of the band's final appeal against the ruling last October.
"It hit him very hard and I think it was ultimately a really sad thing because that's not how he's going to be remembered at all," he said.
"But I think it caused him a lot of stress because of the fact EMI were sued and I was sued."
Hay said the two bars crept unconsciously into Down Under during recording, and said the idea that the band were plagiarists was "ridiculous".
"But as far as (Ham) was concerned, he did feel, the times that I spoke to him, he was obviously upset about it and felt responsible for playing the line, even though it was innocuous," he said.
After the ruling, Ham told friends he would never see another cent out of the song again.
He sold his historic North Carlton home last year and moved to a more modest house in the same suburb.
Friend and local pharmacist David Nolte, who discovered his body, says Ham felt responsible for the copyright controversy.
"He was a very sensitive person. It really cut him apart," he said.
"He did say 'That's all they'll ever remember me by'. It gutted him really ... I don't want to say it destroyed him or anything, but it really did cut him up."
Hay, who is currently on tour in America, hinted that Ham may have fallen on hard times.
"I don't really feel particularly comfortable talking about those things ... we've all had demons that we've tried to exorcise over the years and Greg was like all of us," he said.
"The last time I saw him was a few months ago and ... it's a long-term thing. There's always a long-term thing for all of us, the issue of addiction I think."
Nolte says Ham was not a well man.
"A lot of people drink and sometimes they might drink too much. We all have our little niggles and crosses to bear," he said.