Johnny Clegg, South African singer and activist, dies aged 66

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Grammy-nominated, Johnny Clegg,  British-born who stood against apartheid in his adopted country died on Tuesday at his home in Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African singer and songwriter Johnny Clegg, one of the few white artists to openly confront the apartheid government in the late 1970s and 1980s, died on Tuesday aged 66, his agent said.

He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015.

The Grammy-nominated singer, sometimes called the “White Zulu”, died peacefully at home in Johannesburg on Tuesday with his family, according to Clegg’s manager, Roddy Quin.

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

South Africa’s government paid tribute to Clegg’s achievements on Twitter, saying his music could “unite people across the races and bring them together as a community”.

“Clegg has made an indelible mark in the music industry and the hearts of the people,” they said.

Clegg formed the band Juluka in 1969 with the black guitarist Sipho Mchunu at a time when mixing among races was still illegal under South Africa’s institutional segregation.

The 1987 hit “Asimbonanga”, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who at the time had been imprisoned on Robben Island for over two decades, was one of the high points of a glittering career.

He went on to perform the song for Mandela onstage in South Africa at the popular Aids awareness concerts that Mandela organised.

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, Clegg cut down on his public performances while undergoing treatment, which won him a period of respite.

“It has been a rewarding career in so many aspects … to be able to unite people through song, especially at a time where it seemed impossible,” he said.

He has two sons with his wife, Jennifer, one of whom is popular rock musician Jesse Clegg.

 

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