Published on July 17th, 2019 | by Alan Cross1
RIP South African music pioneer Johnny Clegg
For the decades South Africa was under apartheid, we didn’t get to hear much of the music that was being made in the country.
My first exposure to South African talent was Ladysmith Black Mambazo who appeared on Paul Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland. The next musician that grabbed me was Johnny Clegg, a brilliant performer and activist.
With his band Savuka, Johnny had some success on alternative radio in the late 80s. We played this one at CFNY.
Johnny died yesterday (July 16) at age 66. Reader Alex Lofthouse wrote this.
ohnny Clegg died today at age 66. His music meant a lot to me. It provided some of the soundtrack of my youth, as my teenaged tastes started to shift away from hard rock and metal and toward a wider musical world.
It was also part of the soundtrack of apartheid-era South Africa. This was a white musician who wrote, recorded and performed with black musicians (and sang in Zulu!) in an era when that simply was not done. His music was highly energetic—and highly political. Clegg took a lot of risks to do what he did.
I had the privilege of seeing Johnny Clegg perform in Toronto sometime in the early 2000s. Apartheid was long over by then, but the spark of the shit-disturbing activist was still there. It was a brilliant, stirring performance.
Thanks, Johnny, for opening the ears and hearts of faraway kids like me, and helping us hear the beat of the world a bit better. You’ll be missed.