Fifty Australians - Normie Rowe

A popular recording star who served in Vietnam. A celebrity among many of the young men of his age who faced the prospect of conscription, Rowe was among those called up for army service.

Norman J. Rowe, AM (b. 1947)

Normie Rowe began his popular singing career while a young teenager and gathered a youthful following. After producing his first record in 1965, he quickly rose to national fame, becoming Australia’s King of Pop in 1968. He had a number of big hits, including “It ain’t necessarily so”, and “Que sera sera”.

Rowe’s career was suddenly interrupted when he was called up to do National Service. The press followed his military service, but it was no substitute for the attention he had received as a touring and recording celebrity. He was duly sent to serve in Vietnam with A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

In Vietnam he commanded an armoured personnel carrier, describing the work as, “out on the highway, protection for vehicle convoys and land-clearing teams … taking in infantry, and things like that”. Following his year’s active service he was released from the army.

After his discharge Rowe found it hard to take up his career where he had left off. Nevertheless, he gradually re-established himself in the entertainment industry and later moved into television, theatre, and recording. In 1987 he had an important role in the stage musical Les Misérables. He closely identifies himself with Vietnam veterans groups and actively supports them.

Rowe has said of his National Service days: “You can look at your life and say that wasn’t fair and that killed your career … or you can look back and take out of that segment of your life whatever was good. The best friends that I’ve got are Vietnam veterans.”


Trooper (later corporal) Rowe relaxing with a guitar at Fire Support Base Kerry

Trooper Rowe of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment with a local child, in Phuoc Tuy province, South Vietnam, in May 1969.

Normie Rowe
Normie Rowe was Australia’s King of Pop in 1968.
National Film and Sound Archive #359418