Johnny Clegg was a South African musician, songwriter, and anthropologist who spent his life bringing people together through his music. Over the course of his career, he became a beloved figure in the music industry, both in his home country and around the world. On July 16, 2019, Clegg passed away at the age of 66, leaving behind a legacy of music and activism that continues to inspire people today.
Clegg was born on June 7, 1953, in Bacup, Lancashire, England, to an English father and a Rhodesian mother. When he was six years old, his family moved to Zimbabwe, where he spent much of his childhood. In 1969, he moved to South Africa, where he attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, studying anthropology.
Clegg began his music career in the 1970s, playing in various bands and experimenting with different genres. In the early 1980s, he formed the band Juluka with Sipho Mchunu, a Zulu migrant worker. The band’s unique sound combined elements of traditional Zulu music with Western rock and folk influences, creating a style that was both innovative and accessible.
Juluka became a popular band in South Africa, with hits like “Impi” and “Scatterlings of Africa” becoming anthems for the anti-apartheid movement. Clegg’s music and activism were closely linked, and he used his platform to speak out against the injustices of the apartheid regime.
In the late 1980s, Clegg formed another band, Savuka, which continued his exploration of the fusion between Zulu music and Western pop. The band’s music was popular around the world, with hits like “Asimbonanga” and “Dela” becoming international sensations.
Clegg’s music was not only popular but also influential, inspiring countless musicians and fans around the world. He continued to perform and record music throughout his life, even after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015. He released his final album, “King of Time,” in 2017, shortly before his death in 2019.
In addition to his music career, Clegg was also a respected anthropologist and writer, publishing several books and articles about Zulu culture and history. He received numerous honors and awards over the course of his career, including several honorary doctorates, and was named a knight of the French Legion of Honour in 2015.
Clegg’s death was a loss not only to the music world but also to the global community. He was a musician, activist, and humanitarian who used his talents and platform to bring people together and promote social justice. His legacy continues to inspire and influence musicians and fans around the world, and he will always be remembered as one of the most important figures in South African music and culture.