Rolf Harris

From Academic Kids

Rolf Harris (born March 30, 1930) is a singer, composer, artist, and television host. Born in Bassendean, a suburb of Perth, Australia, he moved to England at age 22.

He initially rose to fame in the early 1960s for his novelty song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", featuring the distinctive sound of the "wobble board" - a large piece of Masonite which was played by "wobbling" it back and forth. He went on to use an array of unusual instruments in his music, including the didgeridoo (the sound of which was imitated on "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" by four double basses), jew's harp and, later, the stylophone. His biggest hit, however, was a gimmick-free rendering of the sentimental song "Two Little Boys" (1969), a departure for him in that he usually recorded either his own compositions or traditional songs.

He also made several television appearances in which he would paint pictures on large boards in an apparently slapdash manner, with the odd nonsense song thrown in, but with detailed results. These led to a string of TV series based on his artistic ability, notably Rolf Harris's Cartoon Time in the 1980s and Rolf's Cartoon Club in the early 1990s. He also hosted a successful variety TV series in Canada, which was a second home to Harris during the 1960s.

His career received a boost in the early 1990s when his cover version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" became a hit, reaching the Top 10 of the UK singles chart. The single, originally recorded for an appearance on the television show The Money or the Gun, recreated the song in the style of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", complete with wobble board and didgeridoo solos.

He is probably best known to younger Britons as the host of the reality television programme Animal Hospital, which chronicled the real-life activity of a British veterinary practice. More recently, he presented Rolf on Art, which highlighted the work of some of his favourite artists, including van Gogh, Degas, Monet and Gauguin.

On September 26, 2004 Harris fronted a project to recreate John Constable's famous The Hay Wain painting on a massive scale, with 150 people contributing to a small section. Each individual canvas was assembled into the full picture live on the BBC, in the show Rolf on Art: The Big Event. He is set to paint a portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II as part of her 80th birthday celebrations, which will also feature as a special edition of Rolf on Art.

He was named as one of the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters of all time in July 2004. He can make all sorts of strange noises, including budgie noises and, what he calls, 'eefing and eyfing' (a sort of panting, whistling noise). Rolf has also planted a tree in the Celebrity Tree Park in Kununurra, Western Australia.

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