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Iconic Indigenous Australian Musician Dr G. Yunupingu Has Died At 46

The singer's incredible voice led to him becoming the highest-selling Indigenous artist in Australian history.

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Matt Gibson / Getty Images

One of Australia's most critically acclaimed and successful recording artists, Dr G. Yunupingu, died on Tuesday, his music label said. He was 46.

"Today we mourn the loss of a great Australian, Dr G. Yunupingu who sadly passed away yesterday in Royal Darwin Hospital at age 46 after a long battle with illness," Skinnyfish Music said in an emailed statement.

An exact cause of death was not specified, although the singer, who contracted hepatitis B as a child, had kidney and liver problems as an adult.

Friend Vaughan Williams told the ABC that the singer had recently been staying in Darwin, a two-hour flight from his home in Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island.

"He was a musical genius who could do rock, gospel, soul," said Williams. "He could do it all."

Born on Elcho Island in Northern Australia in 1971, the singer was from the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu.

Born blind, he became a talented multi-instrumentalist, playing the drums, keyboard, and right-handed guitar, which he famously played left-handed.

He sang in his native Yolngu language, and his self-titled debut album in 2008 went triple platinum in Australia and silver in the UK. Two subsequent top-five studio albums made the musician the highest-selling Indigenous Australian artist in history.

A portrait of the singer painted by Guy Maestri won one of Australia's major art prizes, the Archibald, in 2009.

The singer travelled the world to perform before audiences that included Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and former US president Barack Obama. He also played with Sting at a concert in Paris in 2010.

He established the G. Yunupingu Foundation to assist young people in the Northern Territory.

"His legacy as a musician and community leader will continue as his life’s work continues its positive impact on Elcho Island, the Northern Territory, Australia, and the world," record label Skinnyfish Music said in a statement.

Tributes poured in for the musician shortly after his death was announced around midnight, AEST.

Sad news. An amazing artist. https://t.co/tWlEeXiBTe

#BREAKING: Australia's brilliant Indigenous musician Dr G Yunupingu has died aged 46. @abcnews

Very sad to hear of the passing of the remarkably talented Dr G Yunupingu. A wonderful musical talent, and representative of indigenous Aust

One of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. Rest in Peace, Dr. G. Yunupingu.

The premature passing of a good man, the son of a great people and a voice which could evoke an extraordinary magic. https://t.co/PKiPma66Lq

Another beautiful soul taken too soon. A proud Yolngu man who inspired millions through his music. RIP Dr G. Yunupi… https://t.co/Pdm08AWpiA


Note: In line with Indigenous cultural practices, BuzzFeed News is not publishing an image of the singer, nor using his first name, at this time.

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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