#60: Sadie The Cleaning Lady by John Farnham

City: Calgary, AB
Radio Station: CKXL
Peak Month: May 1968
Peak Position in Calgary ~ #12
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Sadie The Cleaning Lady
Lyrics: “Sadie The Cleaning Lady

John Peter Farnham was born in 1949 in Essex, England. He moved with his family to Australia in 1959. While in Grade Ten, in 1964 he began performing as Johnny Farnham a local Melbourne band called the Mavericks on weekends. In late 1965, he became the lead singer for Strings Unlimited. In 1967, Farnham was signed to the EMI label and recorded a novelty song titled “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)”

Sadie The Cleaning Lady by John Farnham

“Sadie The Cleaning Lady” is a song written by David White, John Madora and Gilmore. John L. Medora was born in Philadelphia in 1936. He later had the songs he wrote credited to John (or Johnny) Madara. With David White, Madara cowr0te “The Fly” for Chubby Checker in 1961, which climbed to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1963 the songwriting duo of Marada and White cowrote “You Don’t Own Me”, a #2 hit for three consecutive weeks for Lesley Gore in February 1964. The song was kept out of the number-one spot by The Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. In 1965 Madara and White wrote another #2 hit, this time for former lead singer of the Dovells, Len Barry, titled “1-2-3”. White and Madora also cowrote “The Boy Next Door” for The Secrets (a hit in Vancouver in the winter of 1963-64).

David White was born in Philadelphia in 1939. He formed The Juvenaires in 1955. In 1957, they changed their name to Danny and The Juniors. In late 1957, the doo-wop group had a number-one hit with “At The Hop”.

In 1965, White, Medora and DJ Ray Gilmore, formed a folk parody group called The Spokesmen. They wrote a pro-establishment song “The Dawn of Correction” in response to the anti-establishment hit by Barry McGuire titled “Eve Of Destruction”.

In the song, Sadie scrubs floors, does chores, and has red detergent hands. She was hoping a guy named Sam would settle down with her. But it never worked out. Since she can’t afford to get board, it looks like she’ll remain single and always be a cleaning lady ’til she dies.

“Sadie The Cleaning Lady” peaked at #10 in Pittsburgh, #12 in Calgary and #15 in Lethbridge (AB). In Australia, the single peaked at #1 in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth. The song topped the Australian pop charts for six weeks in early 1968. It became a number-one single in Australia for five weeks in early 1968. It was the largest-selling single in Australia by an Australian artist in the 1960s. The single peaked at #2 in New Zealand.

Farnham followed up with two more Top Ten hits on the Australian pop charts, including a cover of the 1930s pop standard “Underneath The Arches”. In 1969, Johnny Farnham’s cover of the Three Dog Night song, “One”, peaked at #4 in Australia. He returned to the top of the Australian pop charts later that year with a cover of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. He had three more Top Ten hits in Australia in the 1970s, and a Top Ten cover of the Beatles “Help” in 1980.

In February 1982, John Farnham became the lead singer of the Australian pop-rock group Little River Band. That year the Top 20 single, “The Other Guy”, was the first to feature Farnham on lead vocals. However, as the Little River Band turned to a harder rock sound into the mid-80s, they slid in popularity. Though Farnham continued as lead vocalist into early 1987, his departure was foreshadowed with the October 1986 release of his solo album Whispering Jack. The album featured the debut single “You’re The Voice”.

A second track from Whispering Jack, “Pressure Down”, also climbed into the Top Ten in both Australia and New Zealand.

In 1988, the singer released his 13th studio album, Age of Reason. The title track climbed to number-one on the Australian pop chart, and #4 in New Zealand. A second album track, “Two Strong Hearts”, climbed to #5 in Australia.

In 1990, John Farnham released his 14th studio album, Chain Reaction. The title track, “That’s Freedom” and “Burn For You”, each peaked in the Top Ten of the Australian pop chart.

In 1991, Farnham sang a duet with Jimmy Barnes with a cover of the Issac Hayes classic “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby”, originally recorded by Sam & Dave in 1967. The cover climbed to #2 on the Australian pop chart. In 1992-93, Farnham appeared in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar as Jesus. His recording with “Everything’s Fine”, with Kate Ceberano and Jon Stevens, climbed to #6 in the Australian singles chart in 1992.

In 1996 John Farnham released his 16th studio album Romeo’s Heart. It featured the single “Have A Little Faith”, which climbed to #3 in Australia. Farnham’s last Top Ten hit in Australia was in 1997 with “Everytime You Cry”, which peaked at #3.

In 1987 John Farnham was bestowed the honor of Australian of the Year. In 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. Across his career Farnham was won twenty Australian Recording Industry Association awards, and been nominated for 39 more. He has also been inducted into the Australian music Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Farnham has toured with other recording artists, including Coldplay, Stevie Nicks, Tom Jones, Olivia Newton-John, The Seekers, Queen and others.

Singer-songwriter David White died at age 79 in 2019.

May 18, 2024
Ray McGinnis

7 Days: Interview with Johnny Farnham On Tour,” National Film and Archive Sound of Australia, 1968.
Alan Morrison, “50 Years on from Sadie, the Cleaning Lady who Helped Launch John Farnham’s Career,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 27, 2017.
John Farnham is the Voice again,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 27, 2009.
Make a Noise and Make It Clear: Three Decades of ‘You’re The Voice‘, National Film and Archive Sound of Australia.
Richard Sandomir, “David White, Hitmaker with Danny and the Juniors Dies at 79,” New York Times, March 31, 2019.

Sadie The Cleaning Lady by John Farnham
CKXL 1140-AM Calgary (AB) TOp 15 | May 20, 1968

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For Our Newsletter