So Who Was Johnny Clegg?

By | September 1, 2019


Jonathan Paul Clegg, popularly known as Johnny
Clegg, was born on Sunday 7 June 1953, and sadly, passed away on Tuesday 16 July 2019. Clegg was a South African musician and anthropologist,
and his band, Juluka, which began as a duo with Sipho Mchunu, was the first group in
the South African apartheid-era, with a white man, and a black man. They recorded and performed, later in larger
formation. In 1986 Clegg founded the band Savuka, and
also recorded as a solo act, occasionally reuniting with his earlier band partners. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc, a French
term which means “The White Zulu”, he was an important figure in South African popular
music and resistance to apartheid, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics, and African
music with various Western styles. Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire in the
UK, to an English father, Dennis Clegg, and a Rhodesian mother, Muriel Braudo. Clegg’s mother’s family was Jewish immigrants
from Poland, and Clegg had a secular Jewish upbringing, learning about the Ten Commandments,
but refusing to have a bar mitzvah, or even associate with other Jewish children at school. His parents divorced when he was still an
infant, and he moved with his mother to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and then, at the age of six,
to South Africa, also spending part of a year in Israel during his childhood. As an adolescent in Johannesburg’s northern
suburbs, he encountered the demi-monde of the city’s Zulu migrant workers’ music and
dance. Under the tutelage of Charlie Mzila, a flat
cleaner by day and musician by night, Clegg mastered both the Zulu language and the maskandi
guitar, and the isishameni dance styles of the migrants. Clegg’s involvement with black musicians often
led to arrests for trespassing on government property, and for contravening the Group Areas
Act. He was first arrested at the age of 15, for
violating apartheid-era laws in South Africa, banning people of different races from congregating
together after curfew hours. At the age of 17, he met Sipho Mchunu, a Zulu
migrant worker with whom he began performing music. The partnership, which they named Juluka,
was profiled in the 1970s television documentary, Beats of the Heart – Rhythm of Resistance. Clegg pursued an academic career for four
years, lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Natal,
and writing several seminal scholarly papers on Zulu music and dance. In the early stages of his musical career,
Clegg combined his music with the study of anthropology at Wits, where he was influenced,
among others, by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was later assassinated
in 1989. He preceded each song with snippets of Zulu
culture, information, commentary, humour and personal anecdotes, relevant and unique to
that song. Clegg also incorporated aspects of his Jewish
roots in his music, notably in his songs, “Jericho”, “Jerusalem” and “Warsaw 1943”. Clegg’s song, “Scatterlings of Africa”, gave
him his only entries in the UK Singles Chart to date, reaching number 44 in February 1983
with Juluka, and number 75 in May 1987 as Johnny Clegg and Savuka. The following year, the song was featured
on the sound-track to the 1988 Oscar-winning film, Rain Man. His song, “Life is a Magic Thing”, was featured
in Fern-Gully, The Last Rainforest. Savuka’s song, “Dela”, was featured on the
sound-track of the 1997 film, George of the Jungle, and its 2003 sequel, while “Great
Heart” was the title song for the 1986 film, Jock of the Bush-veld. “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World”, was featured
in the 1990 film, Opportunity Knocks, and 1991 film, Career Opportunities. Jimmy Buffett recorded “Great Heart” for his
1988 album, Hot Water. Johnny Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer in 2015, which ultimately led to his death on Tuesday 16 July 2019. He died in his Johannesburg home, surrounded
by loved ones, and was laid to rest the following day, in West-park Cemetery in Johannesburg. Clegg is survived by his wife, Jenny Clegg,
and his two sons, Jesse Clegg, and Jaron Clegg. Johnny Clegg received numerous prestigious
awards all over the world. In 1991, he was awarded the Knight of Arts
and Letters by the French Government. In 2004, he was voted the 23rd in the SABC
3’s Great South Africans. He received an honorary doctorate in music
from the University of the Witwatersrand, in 2007. An honorary Doctor of Laws degree, from City
University of New York School of Law was bestowed upon him in 2011. In 2012, he received the Order of Ikhamanga,
Silver as part of the National Orders ceremony. This award is the highest honour a citizen
can receive in South Africa. It was presented to him by President Jacob
Zuma. In 2012, he received an honorary Doctor of
Humane Letters degree from Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, in the United States
of America. The University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa,
awarded him with honorary Doctorate in Music in 2013. In 2015, he was made an Officer of the Order
of the British Empire by the British Monarch. Alongside his Juluka band-mate, he received
an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Visual and Performing Arts, from the Durban
University of Technology in 2018. May the soul of Johnny Clegg rest in peace. Please check in the description box below,
for the links to the sources of this report. Thanks for watching. Please comment, like, share and subscribe.

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