Some of the musical highlights of the past 40 years of Mardi Gras

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The biggest party of the year needs a good soundtrack.

The post-parade Mardi Gras Party could well be the best party this country throws every year.

This year Mardi Gras celebrates its 40th year, and while the party didn’t kick off until a couple of years later in 1980, it’s still worth looking back at the music that has made it sound so good.

Hundreds of killer DJ sets, cabaret shows and joyous live performances have soundtracked the party over the past four decades.

Local pioneering DJs like Bill Morley, Paul Holden, Rob Davis, Robert Racic and Stephen Allkins helped turn these nights (and early mornings) into truly euphoric affairs through the 80s.

But music has had a far more central role in the past 25 years, with big international names often coming to Australia just to be a part of the festivities.

There’s a lot of excitement around this year’s event, as the iconic Cher is in town to headline it, alongside the likes of Shaun J. Wright and perennial favourite The Black Madonna.

But, looking back at line ups of the past, it’s worth remembering that there have been some unbelievable bills put together for this party over the years.

Here are a few examples:

1994: John Paul Young, Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue has performed at Mardi Gras numerous times, but we’re going right back to her first appearance at the event in 1994.

A staggering 19,000 people showed up to the party, which had continued to grow solidly year-on-year, and Kylie proved to be a highlight with her 3am performance of her 1990 anthem ‘What Do I Have To Do’, flanked with an army of dancers.

This was a time where Mardi Gras was becoming hugely mainstream – the ’94 parade was broadcast on the ABC – and having Kylie onboard no doubt gave it an even greater push.

Another Kylie performance worth noting was her 1998 appearance alongside sister Dannii (another Mardi Gras regular). That Party was the biggest ever, with 27,000 people in attendance. And, in 2012, the parade honoured her for 25 years of music and support of the LGBTQI communities.

1997: Chaka Khan, Village People

Chaka Khan was promoting a best-of album in 1997 when she came down to Australia to play the headlining slot at Mardi Gras. It can’t have been easy to choose what song would best bring the house down, but ‘I’m Every Woman’ certainly did the trick.

Perhaps the only artist who would have more trouble than Chaka Khan in picking a Mardi Gras anthem was the Village People. They played ‘Can’t Stop The Music’, which, when you think about it, was a masterful choice. 

2010: George Michael, Kelly Rowland, Adam Lambert, Amanda Lepore

George Michael loved Sydney. It was a place where he felt at home, and he apparently had a hell of a time at Mardi Gras. It seems kinda crazy that it took him so long to sign on as a Mardi Gras Party headliner.

He performed his 1998 hit ‘Outside’, a slice of self-deprecating pop genius that showed his sense of humour was as strong as his pop nous.

By 2010 Mardi Gras had been through plenty of ups and downs, but securing an international line up as strong as this was a real coup.

Many present say that Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland was the absolute highlight of the night, as she smashed out ‘When Love Takes Over’, the 2009 David Guetta song – he was there too – for which she sang vocals.

Adam Lambert’s closing performance of ‘For Your Entertainment’ was another high point for the amassed throng of party people.

2015: Dannii Minogue, Nick Jonas, Jessica Mauboy, Jake Shears, Betty Who, Rufus Wainwright, Courtney Act

There are a lot of reasons why Mardi Gras is great, but the fact that it can bring together Nick Jonas, Jake Shears and Rufus Wainwright in the one party is testament to its strength.

It could well be the strongest line up the event has ever had, with a string of high quality pop and indie acts rather than the one show stopping superstar. Some might say it’s a bold move, but

Jake Shears had first performed at Mardi Gras in 2013 on a great line up alongside The Presets and Eurovision winner Loreen, but his collaboration with Aussie star Courtney Act in 2015 was a real highlight.

Here’s hoping more great memories are made at the 2018 event. Have fun and look after each other.