Cape Town – The music industry is reeling following the death of multi-award-winning musician Johnny Clegg yesterday.
Condolences poured in for Clegg, who died at the age of 66, after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
His manager, friend and family spokesperson, Roddy Quin, issued a statement saying: “It is with immense sadness that we confirm that Jonathan (Johnny) Clegg, OBE OIS, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his family home in Joburg.
“Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person who considers him/herself to be an African. His passing has left us numb and we request that the family’s privacy be respected during this trying time.”
Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire, England, and moved to Joburg with his mother at the age of 6.
Quin said his exposure to Zulu migrant workers during adolescence introduced him to their culture and music.
“His involvement with black musicians often saw him arrested during apartheid. At 17, together with Sipho Mchunu, they formed their first band, 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, Savuka.
“Clegg also recorded several solo albums and enjoyed international success, selling out concerts wherever he performed,” added Quin.
Apart from lecturing at the universities of the Witwatersrand and KwaZulu-Natal, Clegg studied anthropology and combined his studies with music.
He was awarded by a number of local and international bodies for his contribution to music and society, notably by the French government in 1991 with a Knight of Arts and Letters, and in 2015 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
He authored and published the book UkuBuyisa Isidumbu (1981, Ravan Press), and presented papers on The Music of Zulu Immigrant Workers in Johannesburg in 1981 at the Grahamstown International Library of African Music and Towards an understanding of African Dance: the Zulu Isishameni Style in 1982 at Rhodes University.
‘‘Johnny was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 but continued to tour and perform around the world to pay homage to his fans worldwide.’’
The family will be holding a private funeral service. Details of a service for the public are to be announced.
Jazz musician Sipho “Hotstix” Mabusa said he was missing Clegg already.
“It is a very sad day for this country; we can’t keep on losing legends. These are very important musicians, people who have made a change and contributed to the South African narrative.
“Johnny was at the forefront of all that, especially as a white musician. We were always in touch, always talking regularly, sending each other SMSes.
‘‘This morning, I was singing The Crossing (a song that was recorded by a group of musicians in Clegg's honour in 2018) and I played it on my saxophone - little did I realise it was an indication for me.”
Clegg is survived by his widow Jenny and their two sons, Jesse and Jaron.