Ray Phiri. Picture: Twitter

South African music legend Ray Phiri died in Nelspruit Mediclinic in Mpumalanga on Wednesday morning after a battle with lung cancer.

Phiri founded popular soul band The Cannibals in Johannesburg in 1972 and was also frontman for Stimela, which released several platinum-selling albums.

Earlier this month Phiri had claimed that his health situation was under control and had pleaded for privacy after a former bandmate revealed that the former Stimela frontman was struggling to pay his hospital bills. 

“Let me suffer in peace with my pain, on my own with my dignity,” he allegedly told a newspaper who had called him for an interview.

His dire situation came to light after long-time bandmate Richard Mitchell raised the alarm with a social media post. 

“Please help by donating funds as he has exhausted all his private funds. Phiri has received many awards in recognition of his contribution to the music industry,” he wrote. The post has since been removed. 

Mitchell claimed he started the initiative after receiving a call for help from Phiri himself, but the artist's family were apparently angry that his condition was made public.

Actress and singer Mara Louw responded to the call on her Facebook page: “I called Ray and could hear he was not well, after I also found out through a Facebook post. I have sent his banking details to a database of friends, but I cannot just give them out publicly. We are trying to do as much as we can to make sure he gets the best medical care.”

Phiri founded Stimela in the 70s and the group went on to record a number of gold and platinum selling albums. 

He was also recruited to work with American artist Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the landmark Graceland album. 

He has won many honours throughout his career, including the Order of Ikhamanga in silver.

We extend our condolences to family & friends of legendary musician, Ntate Ray Phiri. Rest in Peace. #RayPhiri pic.twitter.com/bvKx9eHg4j

— Kaya FM 95.9 (@kayafm95dot9) July 12, 2017
Such sad news to wake up to,the passing of ntate #RayPhiri.Lets celebrate the contribution he made to music and the arts.

— Moeti Tsiki (@moflavadj) July 12, 2017
Ntate #RayPhiri graciously allowed me to remake 1 of his songs & we performed it together on numerous occasions. May his soul Rest In Peace

— ProVerb (@ProVerbMusic) July 12, 2017
News of the passing away of #RayPhiri simply devastating!

— Zwelinzima Vavi (@Zwelinzima1) July 12, 2017
We are saddened to learn of the passing of the legendary ntate Ray Phiri. All of us at SAMRO are thinking of his family & friends. #RayPhiri pic.twitter.com/7fkv9TvKJg

— SAMRO (@SAMROMusic) July 12, 2017
#RayPhiri - I guess heaven called and said "Zwakala Nganeno". Thank you for the music. #RIPRayPhiri pic.twitter.com/TSxkP3bcrP

— GugulethuMfuphi-Cele (@gugucele01) July 12, 2017
how is a living legend struggling to pay medical bills? can the department of arts and culture not help? #rayphiri

— claire mawisa (@clairemawisa) July 9, 2017
An extraordinary talent and a fine voice is gone. Death don't be proud.💔 #RayPhiri

— KhayelihleKhumalo (@KhayaJames) July 12, 2017
Sad day for SA: Legendary South African jazz musician, Ray Phiri passed away after suffering from lung cancer. #RIPRayPhiri 🕊 pic.twitter.com/12r5KsvgAm

— Karabo Mokgoko (@Karabo_Mokgoko) July 12, 2017
So heart breaking: oh bra Ray Phiri 😔🙏🏿 💔 May his soul rest in perfect musical peace! pic.twitter.com/RMo3chJiXR

— IG: @MbuyiseniNdlozi (@MbuyiseniNdlozi) July 12, 2017