In October 2007, one of South Africa’s greatest musical sons died. Celebrate the life and art of reggae artist Lucky Dube with five of his greatest songs.
Inarguably, Lucky Dube was an icon of South African music. The singer-songwriter singlehandedly put South African reggae on the international music map. With numerous successful and critically acclaimed albums, an electrifying stage presence and as an outspoken commentator on political and cultural issues of the day, by 2007 Dube was at the peak of his career and a respected elder of South African music.
His death that year, killed during a hijacking outside his Johannesburg home, was both shocking and tragic. Millions of South Africans mourned the unnecessary death of a true musical legend.
Born in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, in 1964, Dube found his love for music in school choirs and short-lived mbaqanga (Zulu pop) garage bands, before becoming a devout Rastafarian and dedicated reggae musician.
Inspired by Jamaican musicians Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh, Dube mixed the latter’s socio-political messaging with the former’s pop music sensibility. His second album, Think About The Children, released in 1985, was the first of many hugely successful albums he would record over the next 20 years. In 1993, his album Victims sold more than one million copies, and he found audiences across the rest of Africa, in the Caribbean and Europe, where he toured prolifically.
His music helped spread the popularity of reggae around the world and bridge the cultural divides in the African diaspora, particularly for fans in Europe looking for a common spiritual reconnection to Africa. Asked shortly before his death what inspired his music, Dube answered: “People… looking at people, watching [their] movements, the things they do. My songs are [about] real-life situations and experiences.”
During the height of Dube’s popularity, in the last days of apartheid in the late 1980s and early 1990s, his music would often be the soundtrack of a country in change. With lyrics that celebrated humanity and dignity, and inspired many to reach across the cultural divide, Dube’s music was considered a great reconciliator of South Africans from all walks of life.
Not to mention that reggae music itself, with its catchy melodies and addictive rhythms, is guaranteed to always get everyone dancing.
At heart a family man who shunned the excesses of the music business, Dube professed his pride in and love for his wife Zanele Mdluli and their two children, Nkulee and Thokozani, who both followed their father’s footsteps into music after his death.
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of his death, Dube’s long-time recording company, Gallo Music South Africa, has released a double-album compilation titled The Times We’ve Shared. It features not only his biggest hits but also three previously unreleased songs as well exclusive recordings some of his most iconic live performances.
Relive and remember the musical genius of Lucky Dube with five of his greatest songs below:
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