Legendary singer, songwriter, dancer, and musical activist Johnny Clegg has passed on at the age of 66. The artist was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer back in 2015.
His hit songs include the legendary Impi, which was banned in the apartheid era, and Asimbonanga Mandela.
Clegg’s genre in music was Mbaqanga and Afro-pop.
He became famous with a vibrant blend of Western pop and African Zulu rhythms, which exploded onto the international scene and broken through all the barriers in South Africa.
Le Zulu Blanc – the white Zulu – as he is affectionately known in France where he enjoyed a huge following, was 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.
According to his biography on his website, Clegg’s mother, “married a South African journalist and immigrated to South Africa when Johnny was seven-years-old. At the age of 9, 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.”
He shot to fame when he started recording music with a group called Juluka in the 70s. Their music was subjected to censorship and internal restrictions on state-owned radio and their only way to access an audience were through touring. This brought them into conflict with Group Areas Act which enforced the geographical separation of race groups and their cultural facilities.
Over three decades, Clegg sold over five million albums of his brand of crossover music worldwide.