When Suzanne Lynch leads the vocals in a remarkable remake of soul-stirring 1960s hit Piece of My Heart, the emotional power of its lyrics is palpable.

The Kiwi singer who burst into the charts at 14 and toured the world with Cat Stevens has lent her voice to the recording to help support fellow Kiwis and save lives.

The remake - originally recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967, then covered by US rock sensation Janis Joplin the following year - has been released this week to raise funds for Lifeline.

The charity has provided suicide crisis counselling and community helplines in New Zealand for more than 50 years.

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"I loved Piece of My Heart," Lynch tells Weekend Herald.

The lyrics are "so powerful and... so relevant today, especially for this".

Lynch has seen the heartbreaking aftermath of suicide and says it is absolutely crucial Lifeline is supported.

"I've had a friend, a good few years ago now, who lost her son.

"He'd been around for dinner (at his mother's) the night before and (seemed) as happy as."

Kiwi singer Suzanne Lynch is singing a remake of Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart for Lifeline's fundraising campaign The 72 Club. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi singer Suzanne Lynch is singing a remake of Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart for Lifeline's fundraising campaign The 72 Club. Photo / Supplied

Lynch rushed to her friend's side after she was phoned to say the young man had taken his own life.

Her friend was "beside herself".

"She just couldn't believe it... It was devastating for her."

Lynch wants people to reach out for help "before it's too late".

"We're saying, hey ring Lifeline, it's okay, there's someone there that will talk to you, who will understand and help you cope with the problem, whatever it might be."

The remake, with a heart-warming video, features Lynch and other Kiwi music stars, including rock legend Larry Morris. It launches Lifeline's fundraising campaign The 72 Club this week.

The name is a flipping of the "27 Club", a list of popular musicians, artists or actors who died at age 27, including Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

All proceeds from the 72 Club song and campaign will go to Lifeline, so it can continue to support Kiwis going through difficult times, allowing them to go on to enjoy a life well-lived, the organization says.

Lynch has faced many challenges in her life and says that while she has not needed to use the services of Lifeline, she has relished the support of her family and friends through tough times.

She was just 9 months old when she was plucked to safety from the family house in Wellington as it burned down.

Her 3-year-old old sister Judy (with whom she would later form Kiwi chart-making duo The Chicks) had gone to their parents' room in the afternoon to say, "come and look at the big fire".

John and Yolande Donaldson both had the flu, "so they couldn't smell anything".

"They said, oh not now dear we're having a lie-down, we're not very well."

Judy returned about 10 minutes later to say, "it's in the kitchen now".

"They went and had a look and the whole back of the house was on fire," Lynch says.

They picked up Suzanne, who had been asleep in her cot, and hurried her and Judy away from the blaze.

Neighbours, by then rushing to the rescue, tried to get the family's piano out of the building.

But it got stuck in the doorway and gusts of winds raced through, fanning the flames, and the house burned down.

Then at about age 4, Lynch was rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped after eating rat poison.

"I thought they were lollies and shared them with the dog.

"Unfortunately the dog died."

And a decade ago she ended up in hospital after an allergic reaction.

While getting treatment, her heart stopped for three minutes, she says.

"I had to get jump-started (treated with a defibrillator) twice."

Lynch says that after the latest incident, she became determined to make every day count.

"You've got to love your life and live every day.

"No-one knows what's around the corner."

Lynch's stellar career was launched just around the corner from her Henderson home.

Legendary Kiwi guitarist Peter Posa was visiting their neighbour, a friend of his, and playing some tunes on the deck.

She and Judy plucked up the courage to go and ask for his autograph.

Posa said he'd oblige if they sang him a song, which the sisters – who used to sing at home in two-part harmonies - did with Tobacco Road.

Guitarist Peter Posa discovered Suzanne Lynch and her sister. Photo / File
Guitarist Peter Posa discovered Suzanne Lynch and her sister. Photo / File

The guitarist's manager, who was also present, was so impressed he signed them up and they were recording a month later.

As The Chicks, they had chart hits including Hucklebuck, Miss You Baby and Stoney End, starred on TV music show C'mon and had their own fan club.

They performed around the country at age 14 and 16.

"We had our mother on tour chaperoning us," Lynch says.

Male band members on the road trips, including Morris, were also protective.

"Larry Morris was my absolute minder," she says.

"He always used to make sure I was safe and in my room, and then they'd all go out to a party or something. But I never went."

Jodi Vaughan and Suzanne Lynch, appearing in the television series That's Country. Photo / Supplied
Jodi Vaughan and Suzanne Lynch, appearing in the television series That's Country. Photo / Supplied

After The Chicks split, Lynch – as Suzanne – became a solo performer and continued her success.

She was a resident performer on TV pop series Happen Inn, voted New Zealand Entertainer of the Year in 1970 and won a Golden Disc for Sunshine Through A Prism in 1972.

After marrying Kiwi musician Bruce Lynch, she moved to London, where she was a top session musician – singing on albums by stars including Art Garfunkel, The Walker Brothers, Cleo Laine and Chris de Burgh.

She recorded with Olivia Newton-John, did TV series with Lulu and Leo Sayer, and toured with Neil Sedaka and Cat Stevens.

Lynch was a regular in Stevens' vocal group and sings the solo line and the haunting background melody in Oh Very Young, which made it into US Top 10 charts.

Lynch toured with Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. Photo / Richard Robinson
Lynch toured with Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. Photo / Richard Robinson

Stevens, who adopted the name Yusuf Islam in 1978, flew Lynch to Christchurch when he first toured New Zealand in 2010.

"We all went out for dinner and he said, 'Can you come and sing a couple of songs tomorrow night. I'd like you to sing Oh Very Young.'

"The backing singer said, 'We've rehearsed this song but we haven't done it all tour, he's been waiting for you to come and do it.'"

Lynch says when Stevens first asked the Westpac Arena audience to welcome "a long-time friend of mine, [who's] worked with me for a long time, Suzanne Lynch", they were mute because they hadn't associated her name with Stevens.

"Then they put the camera on my face and everyone saw who I was, and then the place erupted."

Since returning to New Zealand, Lynch has been a vocal coach on New Zealand Idol, Stars in Their Eyes and New Zealand's Got Talent.

For the past 11 years, she has also been a member of The Lady Killers with fellow Kiwi vocalists Tina Cross and Jackie Clarke.

The Ladykillers, known individually as Tina Cross, Suzanne Lynch, Jackie Clarke, Taisha. Photo / File
The Ladykillers, known individually as Tina Cross, Suzanne Lynch, Jackie Clarke, Taisha. Photo / File

Lynch's son, Andy, a guitarist, was a member of New Zealand bands Zed and Atlas, and is now with chart-toppers The Feelers.

Her daughter, Aimee, was on the production staff of New Zealand's Got Talent and Stars in Their Eyes.

Auckland-based Lynch, appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for services to entertainment, says she has never been busier.

She is on a five-week national Operatunity tour - daytime concerts for over 50s - playing five days a week. And last night she was to play with The Lady Killers at the Otago Polytechnic Cancer Society Spring Ball, at Dunedin Town Hall.

Lynch says her life's lessons have taught her to "always know that there's another day tomorrow".

"Whatever seems impossible today is not half as impossible tomorrow."

Modern society is increasingly stressful, with work and study pressures, and loneliness, Lynch says.

When traumatic events happen, they can cloud everything else in a person's life if they go unresolved.

But Lifeline's helplines offer the chance for people to talk things through.

"If you could talk to somebody to help you through the dark times, then... [there's] a light at the end of the tunnel," Lynch says.

"Get help. Ring. Talk to somebody."

A number of those involved in the Lifeline fundraising song are Lynch's age and older - mid-60s.

Album cover artwork for Lynch's remake of Piece of My Heart. Photo / Supplied
Album cover artwork for Lynch's remake of Piece of My Heart. Photo / Supplied

The 72 Club celebrated the fact "they've lived through life's challenges and made it".

Lifeline receives about 10,000 calls and 3800 texts each month. That includes an average of six calls a day from people in severe distress, double the amount it received three years ago.

But the helpline, staffed by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, is missing one in four phone calls because of a funding shortage.

Some callers who did not get through left messages or were called back, but Lifeline executive director Glenda Schnell says it is critical the organisation is able to take all callers at the first attempt.

"Often our callers are dealing with the after-effects of traumatic life events, which if left unresolved can spread into other areas of their life.
 
"We know that access to support and intervention in times of crisis saves lives.

"At Lifeline we want all calls from people in need to be answered, so that Kiwis can go on to live to 72 and beyond."

The 72 Club song is available on iTunes and Spotify. For further information or to donate to Lifeline, please visit the72club.co.nz

Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254.
• For others, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines/