Just a month after south Africa lost a music legend Piet Botha, we lost another on Tuesday the 16th of July Johnny Clegg. After a long battle with pancreatic cancer Johnny Clegg left us to perform at the big show in the sky.

I have fond memories of my youth when I was watching TV and Johnny Clegg music video of a ‘Cruel Crazy Beautiful World’ came on and I was hooked with the lyrics of this song and the jive dancey vibes of Johnny Clegg.

Johnny Clegg started from humble beginnings on 7 June 1953 in Bacup, Lancashire, in England, when he was six years old he and his Rhodesian mother moved to South Africa, there Johnny Clegg was introduced to the Zulu culture and music through his exposure to Zulu Migrant workers. He loved the Zulu culture and music so much that he started following black musicians not being afraid of using the local transport that was available for the black culture. This involvement with black musicians was unheard of in the apartheid era and often saw him arrested by the police.

At varsity Johnny Clegg get involved with politics to see if he can change what was happening in south Africa after a while he saw it was not making much of a difference and realized that with what he experienced with the Zulu culture and music that he can maybe make a difference that way, so together with Sipho Mchunu, he formed a band called Juluka.

In 1979 Juluka released Universal Men, an album that spoke to the divided lives of the migrant workers who reside and work in the city, separated from their families and homes. Stylistically, the album was a fusion of Zulu music and various European traditions. 

During the early 1980’s Johnny and Sipho didn’t get any radio play on South African radio as it was frowned upon to promote music that was performed by mixed bands with white and black members. No radio play didn’t stop the band Juluka to perform, they had a strong local audience and a passionate growing following internationally, practically in France where Johnny Clegg was dubbed “Le Zoulou Blanc” (“The White Zulu’). Juluka’s success was very significant in the apartheid era were Johnny and Sipho had live performances in south Africa that often got then in hot water with the police because of their explicit and implicit political statement they made against apartheid system that was condemned by the international community.

In 1985 Sipho Mchunu left Juluka and Johannesburg to return to his homeland in KwaZulu state (now KwaZulu-Natal), and Clegg formed a new group called Savuka (Zulu: “We Have Risen”). Johnny Clegg was joined by  Dudu Zulu and there music included more popular genres as rock, jazz, blues, reggae, and funk. The new band enjoyed extraordinary international success, with their album Third World Child (1987) selling hundreds of thousands of copies and Heat, Dust & Dreams (1993) receiving recognition by Billboard magazine for best world-music album in 1994. Savuka dissolved in 1993, and Clegg reunited with Mchunu to record just one album, Crocodile Love (1997). Clegg subsequently embarked on a solo career and released a number of albums, including New World Survivor (2002), A South African Story (2003), and One Life (2007). In 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After undergoing treatment, he released the EP King of Time in 2017. That year Clegg embarked on a global farewell tour, called the Final Journey, and the last concert was held in 2018.

Songs of Johnny Clegg that will never fade from RockingSa memory is Scatterlings of Africa’, ‘Cruel Crazy Beautiful World’, ‘Great Heart’, ‘The Crossing (Osiyeza)’ and ‘King of Time’.



“Johnny Clegg always remembered and never forgotten by the people’s lives he has touched literary and through his music.” - RockingSA

Resources - https://www.britannica.com/biography/Johnny-Clegg


Images  - https://www.facebook.com/johnnycleggsa/photos


Related Pages:


Johnny Clegg - Long live the spirit of a great heart
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