After reporting on Johnny Clegg’s death on Tuesday 16 July, after a 4-year long, brave battle with pancreatic cancer, we couldn’t write or post anything yesterday. We were just too heartbroken. Like many journalists I had met Johnny (66) a few times, spent time at his home in Joburg and met his lovely wife Jenny, grown up to his music when he played at universities around the country and connected with him at concerts abroad. The loss I feel is too big to express in words. The tears too many to count. Because it’s not just personal. It’s the loss the country is feeling. We’re mourning for someone who, like Nelson Mandela, contributed to the GOOD of the country.
Here are some messages from those who knew him that capture the amazing contribution that this one incredibly special musician made to South Africans around the world.
Lisa Sharon Loeb (entertainment manager):
Our country’s collective pain at losing Johnny Clegg was almost too much to bear today. At one point I had to stop reading posts on social media and listening to the radio.
From hearing DJ’s breakdown on air, to callers phoning in and weeping uncontrollably, to walking into shops and being triggered by Johnny’s music being played everywhere I turned, I spent most of today in floods of tears.
Not since the passing of Madiba has it felt like another human’s passing has ripped our hearts to shreds and simultaneously united us as a nation.
When a friend called from Oz, I was transported back to 2009 when I was the road manager for Johnny’s tour to Australia and New Zealand where I would stand in the wings night after night watching in awe as expats wept openly as Johnny weaved his magical tales and cracked hearts wide open with his infectious melodies, where the voices rose up as one singing their hearts out, to songs they knew off by heart.
Johnny was the kind of performer that touched lives so deeply it felt like he would be with us forever, and it’s so hard to accept that our forever is no more.
I will remain forever grateful for the wonderful memories, for dancing and singing at his concerts like nobody saw.
Fly with the angels Johnny, your music will always bring tears to my eyes and leave a Johnny shaped hole in my heart ♥️
Wendy O Oldfield, singer:
Johnny… I met you when I joined the music biz with my first band the Sweatband. You came to our first show at the Ox box. I died when I saw you in the audience , and asked our door lady ( Sue Carrol )If she knew it was you , and hoped she had let you in for free. ?
She said she had tried , but you refused and insisted on paying. That always stayed with me …a deep respect for music. You came many times after that , and even though by then we were friends, you would still insist on showing your respect.
The Spirit of a great heart. You did not have to search. It was in you all along.
Jenny Jessie Jaron. My love to you.
Jeremy Mansfield, radio presenter (written on the day Johnny died):
Heartbroken the right word. I was out with Roddy Quinn at lunch today. Roddy managed and has been an integral part of Johnny Cleggs life. He got the news Johnnys cancer finally conquered him while we were out. And immediately left to be with the family. Johnny was a hero who bonded this nation more than anyone else using music. You ,Tata, were a giant who did more for reconciliation than any other citizen of this country in your industry. Quite possibly in any way in the country. Your anthropological insight, musical magic and intuitive messages you brought to our nation transformed generations. I am privileged to have been part of your life (fixing 3-phase power in Grahamstown in the mid 80’s with you before a concert at Rhodes with Bokkie being a drummer…useless!!!!) to being part of your Final Journey Tour locally and overseas. In my humble opinion Mhlekazi, you have contributed more to the South African culture and to nation building than anyone else. I will miss you my friend. At the many concerts we had together. And walking the dogs in the park.Hlala kahle mfondini. Ndizakubona kwelizayo ihlabathi
Nelson Mandela Foundation:
The loss of Johnny Clegg will be felt deeply by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Johnny was a friend of the Foundation from its inception, and supported many of Madiba’s projects. We will miss him and his enormous energy. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and with everyone who was touched by his music.
Gus Silber, writer:
Johnny Clegg, in interviews, had a way of talking with his hands, twiddling his thumbs, curling and uncurling his fingers, clutching his chin, narrowing his eyes and gazing upwards, as if searching for the right words to pluck from the sky.
But when he sang, in English and isiZulu, in that voice with its edge of quiver and husk, the words found him, and they moved him in spirit and body, charging him with the restless, surging energy of a wanderer finding his way between worlds.
He was a student, and then he was a teacher, and the lesson he leaves behind is that music, the first human language, born in Africa, is the gene that binds us, and that it will always find a way from the source to the destination, which in the end is one and the same. The heart that listens.
Hamba kahle, Johnny Clegg, and rest in peace among the stars.
Jennifer Crwys-Williams, radio presenter:
Oh no! Johnny Clegg, a genuine legend, has died. What a gift he has been to South Africa, a gift to music, a gift to our souls. I interviewed him more than several times over the years. He was so giving, so modest, so filled with music. And I sat in audiences, enthralled every time I saw him perform because there was always something new, always. One year it was a gorgeous violin riff, another was an unexpected voice soaring above the music. My condolences to his family. He lived his life so well. He will be so missed. I feel privileged to have known him on the sidelines.
President Cyril Ramaphosa:
A beloved, inspirational and heroic voice has fallen silent and leaves all of us bereft of an exceptional compatriot and icon of social cohesion and non-racialism.
Johnny Clegg’s special relationship with Sipho Mchunu in Juluka, as well as with Dudu Zulu in Savuka, gave apartheid-era South Africa a window on the non-racial South Africa we were determined to achieve.
Johnny Clegg will always live on in our hearts and in our homes as we replay his stirring blend of cultural celebration and political resistance. We have lost a special patriot.
From Concord Nkabinde, a member of Johnny Clegg’s band:
I post this video (below) with a very sad heart because just as I was finalizing it, I heard the news that Johnny is no more. I wasn’t sure whether to still post it or not as it was also meant to wish him love & strength. Anyway, I believe he will still receive the message as he embarks on his CROSSING.
I owe a lot to Johnny Clegg for all I learnt in the 5 & a half years of working with him. He has done so much for South Africa & the World. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Love always Jon. You know what you meant to some of us.
Siyabonga Mfo. Phumula ngoxolo Mudekazi.
WATCH: A Big THANK YOU to Johnny Clegg – Concorn Nkabinde Music
Robyn Gwilt, photographer:
So sad to hear of the passing of this legend… my memories of his Farewell Concert at Kirstenbosch in 2017. Thank you for the music Johnny. @LeZuluBlanc
Johnny Clegg's Farewell Concert Kirstenbosch 2017 – what a show! <3
WATCH VIDEO (for the exats!): Johnny Clegg And Savuka – Scatterlings Of Africa (1987)
WATCH VIDEO: Ndlovu Youth Choir pays tribute to Johnny Clegg with ‘Asimbonanga’
WATCH Jesse and Johnny Clegg: I’ve Been Looking, filmed November 2017 at the Boulder Theater 11-2-17, on The Final Tour.
Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Cruel Crazy Beautiful World
Kearsney Boys Choir pays tribute to Johnny Clegg:
Kearsney College Boys pay tribute to Johnny Clegg.
Posted by East Coast Radio on Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Rest in Peace 🎵 Johnny Clegg 🎵Wednesday 17 July 2019 🖍