Johnny Clegg has died at the age of 66. The South African singer and musical pioneer lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife Jenny and his children (Jesse and Jaron).
Clegg was hailed worldwide by millions of fans and critics alike as a trailblazing pioneer in contemporary music. His unique and magical fusion of Zulu rhythms and melodies with folk, pop and African influences made him a household name globally for over four decades.
Johnny Clegg will be remembered not only for his irrepressibly infectious music but for his gentle spirit, humbleness and deep love for his country and all its people.
Clegg played his last gigs in 2018. After this, 50 of his musician friends gathered to celebrate his legacy. He consistently bridged cultures and races. The musicians did this by recording a special version of his song, “The Crossing”.
Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 but continued to tour and perform around the world. He received the Order of Ikhamanga as part of the national orders in 2012.
His manager, Roddy Quin released the following statement
“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. An anthropologist that used his music to speak to every person. With his unique style of music, he traversed cultural barriers like few others. In many of us, he awakened awareness.”
More info about Johnny Clegg
He was born on 7 June 1953 in Bacup, Lancashire England and moved to Johannesburg, South Africa with his Rhodesian mother when he was 6 years old. 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.
At the age of 17, together with Sipho Mchunu they formed their first band called Juluka. At the age of 33 in 1986 during the height of Apartheid he partnered with Dudu Zulu to form his second inter-racial band called Savuka. Clegg also recorded several solo albums and enjoyed international success selling out concerts wherever he performed.
Apart from lecturing at the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Natal respectively, Johnny studied anthropology and combined his studies with music.
I had the privilege to experience Johnny Clegg live twice: At the National Botanical Gardens in Pretoria and at Oppikoppi Festival in 2015. He was true South African legend and he will be missed.
Rest in Peace Johnny Clegg.
Watch this space for updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.