Johnny Clegg, South African musician and apartheid activist, has died aged 66

RIP

Johnny Clegg, the celebrated South African musician and activist, has died at the age of 66.

The artist, who was known as “white Zulu”, passed away following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2015.

Clegg’s manager Roddy Quin said that the Grammy-nominated singer died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Tuesday (July 16).

“Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers himself or herself to be an African,” Quin said in a statement to AFP.

He also confirmed that a public memorial service will be arranged, allowing fans to pay their respects. A private funeral will take place elsewhere.

Sipho Mchunu, the co-founder of Clegg’s first band Juluka, paid tribute by describing the singer as “a gift from God”. “He was more than my brother… My heart is broken,” he said.

Writing on Twitter, South Africa’s government posted their condolences to “one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons” on their official account. “Clegg has made an indelible mark in the music industry and the hearts of the people,” a follow-up message read. See the posts below.

Clegg’s best-known song was 1987’s ‘Asimbonanga’, which was dedicated to Nelson Mandela – who was still imprisoned and seen as a threat to the apartheid state. He later performed the track with Mandela himself.

Born in Bacup near Manchester, Clegg moved to Zimbabwe as a young child. He was introduced to Zulu migrant workers playing street guitar in his early teens, before forming the mixed-race band Juluka. Much of the musician’s material was banned from radio and public performances until apartheid ended in 1994.