“Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)” by John Farnham

In the more-modern era of songs with lyrics so extravagant that they would make Robin Leach blush, it may be hard to believe that back in the day legendary Australian singer John Farnham actually put himself on the map, as a teenage pop music, with an ode to a struggling “cleaning lady”.  But so is the case with Sadie.

Sadie, who is a single mother, is making her living, as the title indicates, by cleaning. And no, she’s not raking in the dough like a high-end maid or anything like that. Rather, in the name of providing for herself and her daughter, she works very hard, to the point of her efforts negatively affecting her health. 

This is not only due to the manual aspect of her job but also the way the detergents mess up her hands for instance. Additionally she’s swiftly getting up in years. Actually she’s way beyond the ideal age to “scrub… floors” for a living. 

And it’s not like she does this menial job every now and then but rather is engaged in it on, we can presume, a full-time basis.

Sadie is also frustrated Romantically

And as far as her love life is concerned, John also infers that Sadie is desperate, as she has not ‘held a man in years. So she goes about “trapping” another employee, “Sam the elevator man”, into spending the night with her. And later in the narrative it can be understood, based on somewhat-confusing terminology, that Sam dumps her for another lady.

So there isn’t any aspect of the subject’s life that comes off as being positive. She works “her fingers to the bone” and is loveless, with seemingly no respite in sight. And the singer doesn’t really go as far as to offer his personal opinion on her situation, besides opining that she is “old”. But the overall sentiment feels as if he is sympathetic to her plight.

Lyrics of "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)"

Release Date of “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)”

Being released during November of 1967, “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)” holds the distinction of being the first single which John Farnham ever dropped. 

It came out via EMI and Columbia Records, the same label behind John Farnham’s debut album, which is also entitled “Sadie” (1968).

John Farnham, as you likely already know if you’re from Oceania, is an artist who, as of the early 2020s, has been musical active for more than half a century. And this song was in fact one of the biggest hits in his career. 

It reached number one on two completely-different Australian music charts, Go-Set and the Kent Music Report. And the track also earned its singer the distinction of being name “best male vocalist of the year”, via the Major Broadcasting Network (Australia), in 1968 at the age of 18.

Furthermore it was the highest-selling domestic single in the Land Down Under as far as the entirety of the 1960s go.

Who wrote “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)”?

John Farnham didn’t write this song. It was actually written by three American musicians:

  • Johnny Madara
  • Ray Gilmore
  • Dave White (1939-2019) 

And the producer of the track is, like John Farnham, an Aussie, David Mackay. Additionally, according to at least one credible source, the track was originally offered to Mike Furber (1947-1973), another 1960s Australian entertainer who ultimate passed away at the age of 25.

John Farnham

Going back to John Farnham’s legendary career, he is a decorated civilian (i.e. recipient Officer of the Order of Australia) in the Land Down Under who has attained such status due to his musical accomplishment. 

For example, he has dropped over 20 studio albums between 1968 and 2016, on top of 17 compilation albums, just as many video albums, etc. 

He is also a member of the ARIA Hall of Fame and has his own statue situated in Melbourne. 

And whereas he may not be a household name stateside, he did make it onto the Billboard Hot 100 with his 1986 track “You’re the Voice” (though it didn’t appear until 1990, when it was re-released in the States).

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