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    Crowded House Drummer Dead

    Paul Hester, the drummer for Crowded House, the Australian rockers best known stateside for their '80s hits "Don't Dream, It's Over," and "Something So Strong," committed suicide in Melbourne, Australia. He was 46.

    According to local reports, Hester was last seen out walking his two dogs on Friday night. His body was found on Saturday, hanging from a tree in Elsternwick Park, a stone's throw away from his home in the southern part of the city.

    No foul play was suspected and police declared his death a suicide, the result of "strangulation." No word whether he left behind a suicide note.

    Crowded House's former frontman, Neil Finn, was distraught over the news.

    "I am devastated. I have lost one of my best mates," he told Australia's The Daily Telegraph from London where he's currently touring with brother Tim Finn.

    A report in Australian daily The Age indicated Hester may have been suffering from clinical depression and had also broken off an engagement to Kiwi singer Kashan in December.

    Hester had also parted ways with longtime partner Mardi Sommerfeld, the mother of his two daughters.

    "We would like Paul to be remembered as the loving father he was, and for the way in which he celebrated life," Sommerfeld said in a joint statement with her daughters and Hester's parents and sister.

    "The family is very shocked and saddened by the loss of Paul. He will be greatly missed by all who loved him."

    Paul Newell Hester was born January 8, 1959. His father was a famous bushman and his mother was a jazz drummer, so consequently, he learned to play the drums at an early age. After a less-than-successful stint at school, he began to make music his full-time occupation in 1980, keeping the beat for a number of local acts.

    In 1983, Hester hooked up with New Wavers Split Enz, which became New Zealand's best-known musical exports. Two years later, he and Neil Finn quit the band and formed Crowded House, eschewing the pop-synth stylings of their New Wave past in favor of crafting catchy melodic tunes that relied on more stripped-down arrangements.

    The group's self-titled 1986 debut went multi-platinum and earned them a massive following abroad, but failed to catch fire in America.

    Determined to make it in the U.S., Crowded House decided to forego a major tour and launch a mini-promotional trek instead that saw them play small acoustic sets at more intimate venues such as radio stations, record stores and even restaurants.

    The strategy paid off. The album spawned two Top Ten hits, "Don't Dream, It's Over" and "Something So Strong," and ended up peaking on the Billboard charts at number twelve.

    However, 1988's sophomore effort, Temple of Low Men, failed to repeat that success and by 1989 the band had all but dissolved. In 1991, the band reunited and released Woodface and scored a smash hit in the U.K. with "Weather with You."

    After years behind the kit and just as Crowded House was about to launch a major American jaunt, Hester left the band, reportedly to spend more time with his family.

    In 1997, the drummer formed a new group, Largest Living Things, which played gigs around Australia. Hester was also tried his hand in radio and TV, emceeing a music program on Australia's ABC network as well as essaying a recurring role as Paul the Cook on the kid's show, The Wiggles.

    Hester is survived by his two daughters, aged 8 and 10, his parents and his sister.

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