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Article compiled and posted by: White Nation correspondent Johannesburg   July 18    2019






Veteran musician Johnny Clegg has died at the age of 66. Clegg’s family confirmed to TshisaLIVE on Tuesday night that the Impi hitmaker had died. His manager of 30 years, Roddy Quin, said that Clegg died “with his family at home” on Tuesday afternoon. He also confirmed that the singer-songwriter’s death was linked to his pancreatic cancer, which first occurred in 2015.



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Johnny Clegg, South African musician is born. 


Johnny Clegg was one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons. He is a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, anthropologist and a musical activist whose infectious crossover music, a vibrant blend of Western pop and African Zulu rhythms, has exploded onto the international scene and broken through all the barriers in his own country. In France, where he enjoys a massive following, he is fondly called Le Zulu Blancthe white Zulu.

Over three decades, Johnny Clegg has sold over five million albums of his brand of crossover music worldwide. He has wowed vast audiences with his audacious live shows and won a number of national and international awards for his music and for his outspoken views on apartheid, his perspectives on migrant workers in South Africa and the general situation in the world today. Johnny Clegg’s history is as bold, colorful and dashing as the  country which he has called home for more than 40 years.


Jock of the Bushveld- Clegg’s song “Spirit of the Great Heart “ featured as the theme song for the 1986  movie.

Born in Bacup, near Rochdale, England, in 1953, to an English father and Zimbabwean mother, he was brought up in his mother’s native land of Zimbabwe. She married a South African journalist and immigrated to South Africa when Johnny was seven years old. At the age of nine, he spent two years in Zambia with his parents who then returned to South Africa when he was 11 years old. Between his mother (a cabaret and jazz singer) and his step-father (a crime reporter) who took him into the townships at an early age, Johnny was exposed to a broader cultural perspective than that available to his peers.

Whilst lecturing Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Clegg worked on the concept of blending English lyrics and Western melodies with Zulu musical structures. This blend was recognized by a South African producer, Hilton Rosenthal, who became the champion of the project and drove it with passion and commitment. He signed up Johnny and Sipho Mchunu (his songwriting and performance partner at the time) to his independent label at a time when mixing music was effectively unprofitable because of the radio censorship of mixed music and mixed bands.

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Johnny and Sipho Mchunu

Hilton went on to produce all of Juluka’s albums as well as all of Savuka’s albums. He continues to promote all their work today as their publisher. Johnny and Sipho called their new band JULUKA which means “sweat” in Zulu. Their music was subjected to censorship and internal restrictions on the state-owned radio and their only way to access an audience was through touring. This brought them into conflict with Group Areas Act which enforced the geographical separation of race groups and their cultural facilities. At this time they could only play in private venues as the law forbade mixed race performances in public venues and spaces. Testing the law, they played at universities, church halls, migrant labor hostels and even in the lounges of private houses. The battle ground of public versus private performances was often challenged by the security police who attempted to close these down whenever they could. Many shows were closed down but not enough to prevent the emergence of a substantial following of students and migrant workers.

In late 1979 their first album, Universal Men, was released. The album was a musical journey into the life of the Zulu migrant worker, living and working in the city, but continually journeying home, caught between two different worlds. A second album, African Litany, came out two years later and was greeted with critical acclaim. Juluka worked hard to maintain the basic framework of their music on this album, but allowed themselves the freedom to explore broader aspects of the South African experience. This ground-breaking work was largely ignored by the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) because of the mixing of languages and also the combining of African and Western musical forms. However it developed a following through word of mouth and sold-out live shows.

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An immediate follow-up album, Ubuhle Bemvelo, was released. Recorded entirely in the Zulu language, it continued to mix Western and African styles of music and appealed to a niche market. Juluka were most fruitful during 1982 and 1983 with tours of the USA, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia. In 1983 they released Work for All and a year later they came out with Musa Ukungilandela. In the six years that they were initially together, the band recorded two platinum and five gold albums and became an international success. Juluka split up in 1985. Mchunu returned to his roots, which was cattle farming in Zululand, while Clegg formed another crossover band, SAVUKA (which means “we have risen”). This time around his concept was to mix African music with a wider music base and international rock sounds. The first album with Savuka was Third World Child, in 1987, and broke all international sales records in France, Switzerland and Belgium in 1988. This was followed by Shadow Man (1988), Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World (1989) and Heat, Dust & Dreams (1993) and then the best of Johnny Clegg and Suvuka with the release of In My African Dream (1994). Savuka toured extensively in Europe and north America from 1988 to 1993, breaking all attendance records in France in 1988 and 1989.

Savuka was terminated in 1993 and three years later Clegg and his lifelong friend Mchunu temporarily re-formed Juluka and recorded Ya Vuka Inkunzi (also released as Crocodile Love). Since then, Johnny has recorded several solo projects including his latest album One Life (2007), New World Survivor in 2002 and his close-to-the-heart projects, A South African Story (2003) involving an album and live concerts, have again proved resounding successes.

In the summer of 2004 Johnny performed a four-month tour of Europe and North America, playing to capacity houses and appeared at several world-famous shows (headline act for Montreal International Jazz Festival opening night – televised worldwide with an attendance of 125000 people, Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Denver Botanical Gardens, New Orleans Jazzfest, Milwaukee Summer Fest, Florida Sunfest (with a guest appearance by Jimmy Buffett), Festival de Cornauille – France, Festineuch in Switzerland and several other high-profile gigs).

In the period between 2005 and 2008, Johnny has featured at several major European festivals, notably Live at Sunset, Zurich 2005, Fête de l’humanité 2007 in Paris, France; Musique Métisses 2006 at Angouleme (France’s premier World Music festival), Bal à la Bastille 2007 (open air for 100,000 people at the Place de la Bastille in Paris – televised live by over seventy TV stations), Quebec Summer festival 2006 (Festival d’eté de Québec) and concurrently completed his own annual European tours and in 2005 completed a 30-date coast-to-coast tour of the continental US and Canada and a sell-out tour of Australia and New Zealand. He has also performed annual runs in major South African centers for capacity audiences.

Johnny Clegg has performed on all four of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids Awareness Concerts in South Africa and in Norway. Mandela has joined him on stage during the rendition of Asimbonanga, a song written by Johnny about Mandela (and other struggle heroes) during his period of incarceration. At every live performance of this song, the audience, charged with emotion, spontaneously rises to their feet. During the Cape Town and Tromso 46664 shows, Johnny also performed duets of his work with Peter Gabriel.

Johnny’s haunting refrain Impi (meaning “Zulu warriors” or “War”) regularly echoes within any South African Rugby stadium which, together with his song Great Heart from the movie Jock of The Bushveld and The Crossing (written for Dudu Ndlovu, his Zulu dance partner in the Savuka era), has achieved anthem status with crowds in his home country. Other notable hits penned by Johnny Clegg include, amongst others, I Call Your Name, Scatterlings of Africa, African Sky Blue, Take My Heart Away, African Shadow Man, December African Rain, Kilimanjaro, Fever and many more. Johnny Clegg endorsed Parker electric guitars and Takamine acoustics with thanks to Marshall Music.

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Saying “Good – Bye”

It’s extremely tough for [his family] and we ask for the media and the public to respect them and their privacy at this time,” said Quin in a brief telephonic interview. “For everyone, it’s devastating,” he added. Clegg is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jenny, and their two sons, Jesse and Jaron. Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and has spoken about the effect the disease had on his outlook on life. In 2017 the legendary musician said “living on a sentence” made him appreciate everything in his life more, including precious moments with his family and friends.

In a more detailed statement issued on Tuesday evening, Quin described Clegg as someone who “traversed cultural barriers like few others”. “Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African. He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. In many of us he awakened awareness,” he said. Clegg was born in England on June 7 1953 and moved to Johannesburg when he was six. “His exposure to Zulu migrant workers during adolescence introduced him to the culture and music. His involvement with black musicians often saw him arrested during apartheid,” said Quin. Johnny Clegg surrounded by family in final moments: ‘He fought till the very end’ “An ox must continue pulling even when it is emaciated.”

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Johnny Clegg– aged 66


It was in 1960 when, aged just 17, he formed the band Juluka with Sipho Mchunu. In 1986 he partnered with Dudu Zulu to form his second interracial band, called Savuka. Clegg also recorded several solo albums, lectured at at the universities of the Witwatersrand and Natal, and studied anthropology. He received a number of awards, including being named a Knight of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1991. In 2015 he was made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire. In 2012 he received the Order of Ikhamanga from the South African government. Clegg and Savuka’s song “Spirit of the Great Heart” was recorded for the 1986  film “Jock of the Bushveld”-based on a true story by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. The  film tells of his adventures in the bushveld in the late 1800’s. Fitzpatrick is an Irishman who goes to the South African bush to seek his fortune.With him was his well-known dog “Jock.” His passing has left us numb and we request that the family’s privacy be respected during this trying time. The family will be holding a private funeral service and we ask you to please respect the family’s wishes,” said Quin. A public service will also be held, with details to be announced soon.