INXS Singer Hutchence Commits Suicide; Fans Mourn Death

Band leader found hanging from a leather belt in hotel room.

Michael Hutchence, the lead singer for INXS, was found dead in a Sydney,

Australia hotel room on Saturday. Local reports say the charismatic and

broodingly handsome singer hanged himself by his own belt, according to

Retuters news service. He was 37.

Hutchence's suicide comes just before the band was to embark on a 20th

anniversary tour of Australia following the release earlier this year of their most

recent album Elegantly Wasted.

The singer's body was found by Ritz-Carlton staff shortly before noon local

time, Reuters reports. Early accounts suggested that the Hutchence,

who had a reputation as an die-hard partier, had died from a drug overdose,

but police said only prescription medication was found in the room.

Authorities removed the belt for examination and said an autopsy would be

conducted on Monday.

"What can I say?" the singer's father, Kel Hutchence told the Sun-Herald. "I've lost my loving son."

Hutchence's death comes a decade after INXS found their biggest success

with their seventh album Kick, which yielded the hit singles "New

Sensation," "Devil Inside," "Never Tear Us Apart" and "Need You Tonight."

Over the course of their career, the band was estimated to have sold 20

million albums.

In the ten years since their heyday, however, INXS had trouble matching

Kick's success. The band released a live collection and greatest

hits set, along with four other records.

Despite the fact that the band had seemingly settled into a down swing,

friends report that Hutchence was not depressed. Molly Meldrum, an

Australian music writer and friend of the singer's, told Reuters

that Hutchence's death came as a shock. She reported seeing him only two

weeks earlier. "He said to me, 'I've never been more relaxed or happier

any time in my life,'" Meldrum said.

Hutchence was in a long-term relationship with British television host,

author Paula Yates (ex-wife of Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof).

The pair had a child, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily in 1996 and

planned to marry next year.

Within minutes of the news of Hutchence's suicide breaking, fans who

flocked to the "An Excess Of INXS" web site were greeted by a picture of

the singer and heartfelt message from the webmaster.

"It is with a sad and heavy heart that I report that Michael Hutchence has

been found dead in a hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney," wrote Neil

Kothari, 23, webmaster for the site. "He committed suicide by

hanging himself with a belt. I'm afraid I'm going to need time to even

conceive of such a tragedy -- so please excuse the lack of updates for the

next few days."

"I'm sitting here in shock," said Kothari during a phone interview on

Friday night (18 hours behind Sydney local time). "My phone is ringing off

the hook, an avalanche of

email is pouring in, and I can't even move because my head is spinning. I

just can't even conceive that he is dead -- he has been a part of my life

for over 15 years now, and his lyrics and words have helped

shape who I am today. I'm just shattered and saddened beyond words."

Other fans on the net shared his massive sense of loss. On the Usenet

newsgroup alt.music.inxs, INXS devotees first shared what little

information was initially available and then began to publicly grieve.

"When I heard that Michael was dead," one fan wrote, "my hand went numb.

I'm very sad not just for myself but for everyone and especially the

people

closest to him."

Laura Nehme, a student at Australia's University of Wollongong, posted that

although she wasn't an avid INXS fan, she was still saddened by the

loss. "It's really tragic when things like this happens," Nehme wrote,

"and [I'm] not just talking about celebs either."

Many fans dealt with the loss by focusing on their loving memories of he

group. One INXS fan named Shari wrote

that seeing INXS perform had really blown her away. "One of the highlights of my

rock

'n' roll life was seeing INXS play The Roxy in 1990 as part of a record

and

radio industry convention," she wrote. "By the end of the show I was

three rows from the stage. I was mesmerized by Michael Hutchence' stage

presence. A few months later when INXS played their regular stadium

gig, I

was offered tickets, but I did not accept them. I knew I had already

seen

the perfect performance, and felt no need to see them again."

An anonymous open letter to Michael Hutchence posted on

alt.music.inxs echoed Shari's sentiments. "Both the Las Vegas

show

during the X tour, and the recent tour in Orlando are my two favorite

concerts in my whole life," the letter read. "It was a pleasure to see

your enthusiasm on the stage."

"He was the most charismatic singer of our generation. Period," Kothari

said. "No one could move a crowd or delight an audience the way he did

time and time again for over 20 years. I've seen and met the band many

times in concert, most recently in September in New Jersey -- I can

honestly say

he

never sounded better."

"My thoughts and sympathies lie with his family, Paula Yates,

the rest

of the band, and with all of his fans," Kothari said. "This is going to

be

pretty hard to get through," he continued and then trailed off a bit.

Pausing to think about it, he then asked the question on everybody's

mind:

"Why? Why did he do it?"

Addicted To Noise Staff Writer Chris Nelson contributed to this report.

[Sat., Nov. 22, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]