Ms Lillian Roxon

Journalist

Lillian Roxon was an Australian journalist who lived in New York in the 1960s and 70s. Dubbed ‘the mother of rock’, she wrote the iconic Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopaedia, which was published in 1969. She was born Lillian Ropschitz in 1932, in Italy – her Jewish family from Poland, migrated to Australia in 1937 to escape the rise of fascism and settled in Brisbane. After studying at Brisbane State High School, Lillian attended the University of Qld before moving to Sydney and pursuing further study at the University of Sydney.

She began her career in newspapers in Sydney and for several years worked for the tabloid magazine Weekend. In 1959 she moved permanently to New York, becoming the first Australian female overseas correspondent and the first Australian journalist to establish a high profile in the U.S. From 1962 onward, she was the New York correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and over the next ten years she carved out a singular career reporting on arts, entertainment and women's issues for the Australian, American and British press.

In the mid-1960s Roxon became fascinated by pop music and the rise of groups like The Beatles, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones and she began to write regular articles on the subject. In early 1967 she visited San Francisco and was one of the first mainstream journalists to write about the nascent hippie movement, filing a landmark story for The Herald on the subject.

Through her writings and her interest in pop, she became one of the leading lights of the social and musical scene that centred on the fabled New York music club Max's Kansas City, which was frequented by members of the Andy Warhol circle, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and others.

She wrote and presented a show called Discotique – a two-minute ‘daily newscast from the world of music’. The shows, which ran from March to October 1971, were recorded and then pressed onto vinyl LPs (20 shows fitted onto one LP) and syndicated on 250 radio stations in the United States.

Roxon's profile expanded and she became more widely known for her feminist stance. She wrote a ground-breaking and highly personal report about the August 1970 women's rights march in New York, which was published in The Sydney Morning Herald under the title "There is a tide in the affairs of women".

Roxon's health declined during the early 1970s. She died at the age of 41 in 1973, after suffering a severe asthma attack in her New York apartment.